The controversial overnight closure of Grantham A&E has been one of the most hotly discussed topics this year, putting passionate local residents at odds with the trust running Lincolnshire’s hospitals.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust made the “unprecedented” decision to close the town’s A&E from 6.30pm until 9am in August, due to staffing shortages.
The temporary closure was extended for a further three months in November, with the department set to reopen in full in February 2017.
ULHT chief operating officer Mark Brassington confirmed that the A&E would be restored to its former level once enough doctors had been recruited by the trust.
However, a report this week has suggested that Grantham A&E could be downgraded to an urgent care centre, raising serious doubts over whether the department will ever fully reopen.
Jody Clark, founder of the Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital group, which has been campaigning for the town’s A&E to be fully reinstated, has described the possible downgrading as “ludicrous”.
She said: “I am honestly shocked at the ignorance of the impact the overnight closure has made on the community, the police and ambulance services as well as the supporting hospitals.
“To consider making Grantham an urgent care centre, is just ludicrous! How are Grantham and District residents meant to survive a heart attack? Stroke? Breathing difficulties? Meningitis? Septicaemia? If we have to travel an hour for emergency care?
“The roads from Grantham to Lincoln are not well lit and are rural country roads.
“We will continue to oppose the downgrading to urgent care centre and will continue to put pressure on to reopen our A&E 24/7.”
Andrew Morgan, chief executive of Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, said: “There’s a very thriving future for Grantham Hospital. There have been issues around the A&E being 24 hours or not.
“It was never a plan to behind closed doors secretly close Grantham Hospital.
“There are options and discussions as part of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan to look at the future of what services should be at Grantham but as we’ve said many a time, these are all subject to public consultation.
“No decisions have been made.”
ULHT chief executive Jan Sobieraj said: “Keeping all services as they are is not an option as some services don’t always meet clinical guidelines and national standards and we often struggle with staffing shortages.
“We want patients to always be cared for by highly skilled, compassionate staff. We all want to prevent emergency admissions to hospital.
“Those who need specialised treatment will get safe, high quality care at the best hospital, though possibly not always at their nearest hospital.”
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Stefan is the Local Democracy Reporter covering Greater Lincolnshire. You can contact him directly with your news via email at [email protected]