NHS reassurance over proposals for patients to travel longer distances for specialist orthopedic and stroke care

Reassurance has been given over proposals for changes to orthopedic and stroke care in Lincolnshire hospitals which would see patients not being treated in the centre closest to them.
Lincoln County Hospital.Lincoln County Hospital.
Lincoln County Hospital.

Skegness Town Council raised concerns in a public consultation on proposals to move orthopaedic surgery to Grantham and District Hospital and stroke services to Lincoln County Hospital.

Currently, hyper acute stroke services are divided between Pilgrim Hospital and Lincoln County Hospital.

Unplanned and planned orthopaedic surgery also takes place on the same sites, with unplanned surgery taking priority.

Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.
Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.

Councillors, speaking on behalf of residents, said issues around staff recruitment and retention at Boston's Pilgrim Hospital needed addressing rather than the NHS make changes that would call for longer journeys to hospitals.

They were especially concerned for those who needed to access 'emergency treatment for a stroke'.

"Patients have a much greater chance of surviving and avoiding long-term brain damage if they arrive at the hospital and receive treatment with a clot busting drug within the first hour," they said.

"In a car you can reach Pilgrim Hospital in half an hour but it takes double that to get to Lincoln Hospital.

"The further distance will also put additional pressure onto East Midland Ambulance Service non urgent hospital treatment to get people home.

"It may also mean that friends and family are unable to visit and that our most vulnerable residents are affected negatively by these changes the most."

NHS representatives addressed these concerns at the December meeting of Skegness Town Council.

Sarah-Jane Mills, Chief Operating Officer, NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Charley Blyth, Director of Communications & Engagement LCHS, Professor Alun Roebuck (LCHS) and Sandra Williamson (Health Inequalities, CCG) explained the reasoning behind the proposed changes outlined in a public consultation document relating to four of Lincolnshire's NHS services.

Ms Mills said she fully appreciated the concerns of local people as she also lived along the coast and knew the distances involved but she explained they had to look for a compromise to give the best possible service with the facilities they had.

"That's why we have needed to talk to people and to explain the current situation," she said. "We arrived at the proposals after taking the advice of clinicians.

"Our aim is to get people home as quickly as possible with enhanced rehabilitation support.

"We have had to look at the best we can do for all the people of Lincolnshire.

"It's about the complete package and the speed patients are treated on arrival at hospital."

Professor Roebuck said the problems of getting consultants for Boston Pilgrim Hospital and keeping staff was widely known.

"Creating centres of excellence means we have that level of expertise 24/7," he said.

"That is not so at Pilgrim Hospital. Patients may get there quicker but the hospital has to rely on locums.

"It is far better for the patient on arrival at the hospital to be seen by a specialist straight away.

"Centres of excellence get advance notice of the condition of the patient and the clinician is waiting ready to go for a scan and start treatment.

"The more you can do within a short space of time the better it is for the patient.

"Yes the distance may be further but we would be offering a total pathway."

* The Standard contacted United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) following speculation on local social media sites that the stroke department at Boston had already been closed. A ULHT spokesperson told us: “The stroke service is still operational at Pilgrim.”

There is still time to have your say about the proposals. The consultation continues until December 23. To have your say visit https://lincolnshireccg.nhs.uk/launch-of-public-consultation-on-the-future-of-four-local-nhs-services/