During Wednesday’s session of the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster, Stephen Phillips QC MP questioned the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Chris Wormald, on the response to the overnight closure of Grantham A&E.
Mr Wormald replied that he was aware of the issue and the problems with staffing, but that it was the responsibility of NHS Improvement.
Mr Phillips said: “I want your assurance that the Department is on top of this and giving as much assistance as possible to the Trust… the Secretary of State and the Department are still responsible for the health service, ultimately, so it is to you that I look to be on top of this issue.”
Mr Wormald promised to consult with NHS Improvement and write to both Mr Phillips and Nick Boles MP with an update on what the department is doing to help United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT).
Mr Phillips said afterwards: “The service offered at Grantham is an important one, even though the majority of those in need of emergency care in my constituency are treated at Lincoln. There is no excuse, in my view, for ULHT finding itself in this position given the levels of increased funding which have been made available to the NHS and, going forward, I want to ensure that the current situation cannot happen again.
“I have already written to the Secretary of State and the Chief Executive of NHS England for their assurances that the problems will be resolved as soon as possible, but I wanted to make sure that the Permanent Secretary is also aware and doing what he can to assist.
“I look forward to hearing from him that the Department is doing whatever it can to help ULHT to resolve this and get the A&E service at Grantham working fully again.”
ULHT said it had closed A&E overnight temporarily for three months in order to transfer staff to other hospitals at Boston and Lincoln where staffing levels were in crisis.