United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust criticism over Grantham A&E consultation

Lincolnshire’s hospitals trust has revealed its latest plans for services in the county, but campaigners say the move has sparked “grave concerns” and left unanswered questions.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust advertised its latest consultation on Friday evening, which will include an examination of Grantham Hospital, and gave people until Tuesday lunchtime to respond – just one full working day.

Campaigners said there were still questions to be answered about the plans. They also said the time-scale for response was “too short” and could result in some residents being left out, however, trust bosses said the survey had been part of an ongoing process since December.

ULHT says it will consider its plans to restore services at an extraordinary board meeting on Tuesday, March 16, at 2pm.

It said an independent review had been carried out over the last nine months into the changes, which included the opening of a 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre.

“[The changes] enabled the trust to continue to deliver essential cancer and urgent surgery to the people of Lincolnshire during the pandemic in an environment protected from COVID-19,” said a statement.

Under the latest plans:

Existing services at Grantham will remain. The trust added two theatres to allow for more surgery and will keep some chemotherapy day services on the site. It says it is “keen” to restore day case cancer services to Boston and Lincoln soon.

Sexual health services, some outpatient and community mental health services, children’s and women’s outpatients and dental services run by NHS trusts will return to the Grantham site.

Outpatient, diagnostic and therapy services will return with “very limited need for any interaction with the other patient services on site”. A dedicated medical and surgical rehabilitation ward is also planned.

Emergency care services changed again to include a daytime (previously 8am to 6.30pm) A&E, a same-day emergency care unit, an emergency admissions unit, access to diagnostic services and integrated support from community teams.

An enhanced out-of-hours primary care service at the front of the hospital will include walk-in services until 10pm and a booked service through the night.

A survey into the Grantham hospital Green site model was launched on December 15, 2020, with an interim report produced on January 15 of this year.

A trust spokesman said: “For anyone who has difficulty with access for any of areas you can call or email and someone will provide this service through a medium that is accessible.”

Responses should be sent to [email protected] or 01522 573986.

Grantham SOS Campaigner and South Kesteven councillor Charmaine Morgan said: “Whilst it’s looking promising they are restoring a number of the services at Grantham Hospital and have plans to restore even more, we have grave concerns over the very short notice and very short window for anyone to respond.

“It’s very likely the groups most affected won’t have time to respond.”

She said there was already concern the move further took away night-time A&E services in the long run.

The comments come just days after lawyers on behalf of campaigners appeared before a High Court judge over the original plans which saw Grantham Hospital turned into a COVID-free site in the face of the pandemic.

Councillor Morgan, one of those to give evidence, said: “Listening to the arguments during the case it was very clear the failure to consult was a significant issue.”

Fellow councillor Ray Wootten pointed out the board’s meeting was on the same day as Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.

“I was a bit cross because a recent motion called on the trust to have a full and frank consultation across the entirety of Lincolnshire. This way anyone without internet access can’t contribute, if they’re even aware of it.

“It’s an extraordinary meeting, what’s such an emergency they need to do it so quickly? Is it because of the COVID Green Site coming to an end?

“They have had plenty of time to think about that and deal with it.”

He reiterated that services should return to the same level they were four-and-a-half years ago.

“For a growing district of 140,000-plus population I want to see the same Grantham Hospital services we had before, nothing less, nothing more.”

Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital campaigner Jody Clark said the time frame “doesn’t give everyone the chance to respond”.

“It restricts anyone who doesn’t have internet access or has additional needs (language barrier, disabilities, elderly) and some of those will need to use those services the most,” she said.

“So it’s on all of us to give our views to make sure everyone’s needs are taken into consideration.”

She said the consultation so far “left me with more questions than answers” – particularly around A&E, staffing levels and the risk to patients.

“I hope the board approve the changes, as it will reduce some of the need to travel, but I honestly think we need more enhanced services locally, especially with all the residential developments in the county, all our hospitals will be under excess demand unless better local provision is given,” she said.

“Nearly five years on from the original overnight closure, it’s about time this got sorted, we will keep fighting for Grantham Hospital.”