Calls for STP public consultation after concern raised over lack of progress on controversial proposals

The NHS will face calls from leading county councillors to publish a plan for public consultation on its controversial proposals for a major shakeup of health services in Lincolnshire.

Concerns have been raised by the county council over the lack of progress on the Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan since an initial draft was first published in December 2016.

At the time, the plans outlined a required £205 million investment to improve the facilities at Lincoln County Hospital, Boston Pilgrim Hospital and Grantham Hospital.

The proposals revealed that Grantham A&E could be downgraded to an urgent care centre and maternity services centralised to Lincoln.

Over 500 jobs are also set to be lost by 2021 under the plans.

Lincolnshire County Council unanimously voted against the STP at a Full Council meeting in December 2016, just over one week after the report was first leaked to the press.

County council leader Martin Hill wrote to NHS chiefs in March 2017 adding his criticisms, claiming that “making things better for most people, at the detriment of others, is not good enough”.

Since then, the county council said that there have been delays in publication of the STP plan, with further concerns raised about the lack of answers to the financial struggles of the NHS in Lincolnshire as well as fears about the changes themselves.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which covers the three main hospitals in the county, was put in special measures by the Care Quality Commission for performance failures and in financial special measures by NHS Improvement in 2017.

Even this month, ULHT has forecast an end of year deficit of £82.4 million, £5 million more than its deficit control target agreed with NHS Improvement.

In addition to asking the NHS to publish a plan for public consultation “without delay”, Lincolnshire County Council will also call for a review of governance arrangements for the STP to provide clarity over decision-making, accountability, democratic engagement and oversight of the process.

Glen Garrod, Executive Director of Adult Care and Community Wellbeing at Lincolnshire County Council, said in a report to councillors: “The county council has a long and successful track record of working with NHS partners in Lincolnshire.

“More recently and with the development of the STP programme the nature of the relationship has changed and, given the quality, performance and financial imperatives facing NHS services in Lincolnshire, more profiled.

“Disappointingly little progress has been made to address underlying budget deficits, performance continues to be poor at ULHT and successive inspections by the Care Quality Commission have reported on serious quality issues.

“This has been the picture for a number of years with little sign that ‘the tide has turned’ and these critical issues are getting better.

“Change is likely, indeed necessary and improvements critical if Lincolnshire residents are to receive NHS services that they deserve.”

In response, John Turner, Senior Responsible Officer for the Lincolnshire STP said that Lincolnshire County Council is a key partner for the NHS in the county but refused to be drawn on when it would publish its plans for public consultation.

He said: “We are fully committed to working together with Lincolnshire County Council in the best interests of patients and the people of Lincolnshire. The level of our integrated services between the NHS and Lincolnshire County Council already compares well nationally.

“There is much to be proud of in our local NHS, with our dedicated staff and partners working to provide the best care for our patients. At the same time, it is widely recognised that health and care services in Lincolnshire are very challenged – we struggle to provide consistent care and meet all quality standards, to recruit clinical staff in key areas, and we are currently overspending by £100 million a year.

“In recent months the STP has reported progress in areas such as mental health, GP services, integrated community services and operational efficiencies and improvements have been delivered for patients.

“In addition, the STP is also undertaking an acute services review which is examining what would be the future configuration of acute hospital services for the population of Lincolnshire.

“We look forward to discussing this openly across the county in due course.”

Councillors on the council’s Executive will consider the next steps to take at a meeting in Lincoln on Tuesday, May 1.

Stefan Pidluznyj , Local Democracy Reporting Service