The Leader recently received an email from a member of staff at Louth County Hospital, who said that Fotherby Ward – the only surgical ward at the local hospital – would be closed on Mondays from February 10.
The staff member said: “(Fotherby ward) will therefore only be open from Tuesdays to Fridays, despite us being one of the best facilities in the Trust.
“This is due to problems in the rest of the county with Lincoln and Boston hospitals. So Louth is being penalised through no fault of our own.
“The staff are in despair, as it was only 16 months ago they changed us to day surgery.
“After being told we were one of the best places in the country to have a hip or knee replacement, they were taken off us and Louth people now have to travel to Grantham for this type of surgery.”
In an official response to the Leader, a United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) spokesman said these changes were actually part of ongoing efforts to ‘explore how best to utilise operating capacity across our hospitals’, and said no patients had been affected.
The spokesman said: “In August 2018, the Trust changed how each of its hospitals contributed to the trauma and orthopaedic service, as part of a revolutionary trial. This is when we started to schedule elective/planned orthopaedic surgery that required an overnight stay at Grantham to prevent cancellations and provide a better patient experience.”
Surgical Division Managing Director, Mark Lacey, said: “We have been trying to maximise the use of Louth theatres for many years and our surgical division has been exploring how best to utilise operating capacity across our hospitals.
“Louth theatres will be shut on Mondays, but we will be operating on the same number of patients at Louth as before as we will be making better use of operating lists at Louth on the other days of the week.
“No patients have had their dates for surgery moved and no services have been withdrawn, as the full suite of surgical procedures currently undertaken at Louth hospital will remain with the same weekly capacity to treat patients.”
The ULHT spokesman said that further information on the plans could be found online at www.ulh.nhs.uk/news/a-united-approach-to-orthopaedics.
The website states that the Trust now features ‘hot’ sites where trauma (emergency orthopaedic) surgery is carried out, and ‘cold’ sites where elective surgery takes place.
This approach means that the majority of patients requiring emergency or urgent treatment for trauma, such as broken bones and soft tissue injuries, will go to the hospitals in Lincoln and Boston, with some of this care given at Grantham and Louth too.
Those having elective (planned) orthopaedic surgery go to Grantham if they require an overnight stay as an inpatient, or Louth if they are able to go home on the same day.
Meanwhile, all operations on fractured necks of femur (broken hips) are carried out at Lincoln and Boston hospitals, ‘in line with nationally agreed best practice’.