Patience is a virtue and one which has been tested to its limits for those involved with Lincolnshire’s health services.
Back in 2016, hospital bosses laid their cards on the table and showed exactly what they wanted to change in the county’s healthcare in an initial draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).
It included controversial plans, such as a downgrade of Grantham A&E, which were roundly rejected by county councillors.
Fast forward to the present day and officials are poised to unveil a set of firm plans for how health services will look in the future.
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But, it’s been a long time coming and it seems campaigners, patients, staff and others who rely on the health service will be waiting much longer.
County council officials have pressed for clarity on the proposals over the last four years.
Last March, hospital bosses gave a flavour of the “suggested options” for services, including an urgent treatment centre in Grantham.
But, these were not concrete plans and could be altered under the final blueprint.
Hence the frustration among councillors that there is nothing set in stone which they can scrutinise.
So why is it taking so long?
Before any concrete proposals can be revealed to the public, health officials need capital funding to pay for any projects they wish to include.
Lincolnshire’s NHS failed in a bid for funding in 2018 and will have to wait for another round of funding bids, which is expected later this year.
Until then, it’s unlikely that the STP will be revealed.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson came to power, local health services had a flavour of capital funding as part of one of his early acts in Number 10.
In Lincolnshire, Boston Pilgrim Hospital was handed £21 million for an expansion of the emergency department.
Other areas, such as Kent and Medway STP, were not so lucky to come away with significant cash.
But, during the election, Mr Johnson pledged to increase funding for the health service and “level up” the north-south divide.
The next wave of STP cash is expected in the Spring and hospital bosses will be hoping that they get a rub of the green this time.
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