A Gainsborough councillor has said he “struggles to have confidence” in United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust’s promises after leaking a letter suggesting services had been withdrawn from John Coupland Hospital already.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Matt Boles tweeted an email to a constituent from “Laura” in ULHT’s booking office which said: “Unfortunately we are no longer holding any orthopaedic services in Gainsborough and we will only be able to rebook you for an appointment in Lincoln County Hospital.”
However, ULHT has said the message was “incorrect” and have launched an investigation into why it was sent.
They added: “The position remains that no decisions have been made around services at Gainsborough hospital, and we are committed to public engagement on any future service change.”
West Lindsey District Council recently agreed to write to hospital bosses warning that losing services at John Coupland would be “disastrous” for the district and town.
ULHT has confirmed it is considering how it delivers “some outpatient services at some peripheral sites,” but said it has not yet decided on the details.
It has promised full and open consultation will take place before any decisions are made.
So despite assurances from directors at @ULHT_News that no decisions had been made & any would be subject to FULL public consultation patients are now formally being told that clinics will no longer being held at John Coupland Hospital! Appallingly dishonesty & underhanded pic.twitter.com/iJhltvarj9
— Matt Boles (@CllrMattBoles) February 13, 2021
However Councillor Boles, who led the motion, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the letter he had seen and the trust’s response.
“I was given assurances that no plans had been agreed or finalised for the removal of services, and if that was the case the plans would be subject to a full and open consultation,” he told Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines.
“For patients to be receiving this email confirmed to me what we have suspected – that it’s a done deal.
“For ULHT to claim there’s been an error, I struggle to believe that. Has this Laura gone completely rogue?”
“I don’t have any confidence that the public consultation will be meaningful or that ULHT will be open and honest.”
Councillor Boles said there were numerous issues with closing services at Gainsborough, including a lack of public transport, lack of access to online services in deprived areas and the environmental impact of cars making longer journeys to Lincoln and back.
He added: “Gainsborough is a growing town, there’s thousands of new homes coming, so as far as we’re concerned we need more health services.”
He expected the consultation to give a “resounding no” to the options on the table, and therefore felt it would not be “meaningful”.
Campaigners hoping to protect the hospital’s future are to step up their actions in the next few days with plans for a massive leaflet drop to 15,000 houses as well as an online petition set to be launched.
A spokesperson for ULHT said: “We responded directly to Councillor Matt Boles with our current position, there is no further comment.”