Health campaigners and the Boston MP have demanded new temporary measures at Pilgrim Hospital return to full service as soon as possible.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust bosses today detailed backup plans that would see children’s and maternity services transferred to Lincoln County Hospital.
The future of the service relies on the success of a temporary model which currently sees children and young people who require more than 12 hours of care at the Boston hospital transferred to Lincoln.
It was brought about due to severe staffing shortages and prevented, for now, a full closure of the unit.
It also sees young patients brought through a Paediatric Assessment Unit.
Board members were told by Dr Neil Hepburn, medical director at ULHT, that since the model began, only 24 patients had been transferred – however, the number is expected to grow as youngsters go back to school and over the winter period.
He said it had been working well, but was ‘still fragile’.
Speaking following the meeting Jody Clark, of the Fighting For Grantham Hospital group said her own experiences had left her concerned over how long ‘temporary service’ would go on for.
She said: “They don’t seem to have a time-scale because it all comes down to recruitment.
“When we got enough doctors at Grantham to re-open A&E, the East of England Senate stepped in and changed it because of the fragility of the services at Pilgrim and Lincoln so what’s to say that when they’ve got to a point they’ve got enough to run those services as it was at Pilgrim, someone else isn’t going to come in and say it’s not safe to do that still?
“I’m reassured service isn’t going to be reduced any more than what it has been but still a long way to go to get it back to what it was.”
Alison Marriott, of SOS Pilgrim Hospital, wasn’t available for interview following the meeting but said in a statement that she was concerned about the lack of use of the new unit, with concerns over delays in A&E.
She said she felt not enough scrutiny had been given to the risks, particularly if the unit did become full during the winter.
MP Matt Warman called on ULHT to return the hospital to its former service as soon as possible.
He said: “These changes have to be temporary and we have to try to do as much as we can for as many people as we can so that very few people are disrupted.
“Obviously there’s good news for patients but I think we can do better and hopefully we will see more progress in the next few months.
“The trust is right to introduce contingency planning but we shouldn’t lose sight that the aim from everyone involved is to maintain the service at Pilgrim to provide not just the temporary service but the service that we had or an enhanced service.”
Following the meeting Dr Hepburn admitted costs were a concern, but said that was not as important as patient safety.
“This is not a position we would choose to be in financially it is extremely difficult for us but we are putting patient safety first of course as we learn more about how the model works and what’s needed we will tweak it but whatever way you look at it this is a very expensive problem for us to solve.”
He called on people to carry on as normal when their child is sick – call 111, see a GP or attend the accident and emergency unit.