A number of major changes to Lincolnshire’s hospital services are being considered by NHS bosses as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust updated Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee on the proposals on Wednesday.
These include changes to urology and paediatrics as councillors continue to question the future of Grantham Hospital.
Centralising urology emergencies
Under new proposals currently under consultation, Lincoln County Hospital could receive all future emergency urology admissions, seven days a week, while Pilgrim Hospital, Grantham Hospital and Louth Hospital would all tackle elective and day case theatre lists, as well as assessment.
Hospital bosses are hoping this will help bring down the number of cancelled procedures from around 1,900 annually as it will mean consultants would not be required to be both on-call and carrying out planned surgery, which is currently the case.
ULHT bosses reassured members of health scrutiny that planned changes to the urology service would not lead to further centralisation.
“We do not have the capacity at any of our sites to centralise services,” said Deputy Chief Executive Mark Brassington.
“That said, the way we deliver our services does need to be different. Unfortunately, as always within health services there’s continual change, so we’ll need to have further conversations over the coming months and years.”
“Success” for Pilgrim paediatrics
Elsewhere, councillors praised “good news” as it was revealed Boston’s paediatric services would be improved upon.
Since August 2018, Boston’s Paediatric Assessment Unit had only opened for 12 hours a day, however, the trust found it needed to be longer and over the COVID-19 pandemic their moved up to 24 hours.
It also looked after babies who are born 32 weeks or above, whereas previously it was 30.
“During 2019 2020, we saw that this 12 hour to stay model wasn’t meeting the needs of our conditions of our population, and we were seeing people being transferred to a hospital site, and then being rapidly discharged and that was, that wasn’t in the best interest of everybody,” said Mark Brassington.
“So we began to flex what was agreed, and have more flexibility and clinical oversight of patients over four hours of paediatric assessment used to Pilgrim.”
Now the trust is about to launch a further consultation on making the change permanent.
Bosses said it had already opened up the trust’s capabilities to take care of children, even up to 48 hours if needed. It had also been recognised now for “offering a really positive training environment”.
“It’s been seen nationally as really innovative,” said Mr Brassington.
Boston Councillor Stephen Woodliffe, said it was a “success story” and paid tribute to the Pilgrim SOS group and said the trust had “responded positively” to campaigners’ concerns.
“Well done, it’s very, very good news,” he said.
Following the meeting SOS Pilgrim Campaigner Alison Marriott indicated that the move was an improvement to what had been offered previously, but was not back to pre-August 2018 levels.
“It shows that we were right to be cautious about “temporary” changes, as this makes permanent the August 2018 changes, but with a longer period where children can stay,” she said.
“I’m just glad we still have our children’s unit and maternity, three years later, but it’s important that the training status of the hospital is maintained and enhanced, because every time something is removed it stores up problems for recruitment and retention of staff in future.”
Councillors still want 24/7 Grantham service
At the meeting on Wednesday, Councillors also continued to raise issues with Grantham Hospital as the trust looks to restore services and end its COVID-free site.
As part of the plans, the Urgent Treatment Centre, which was open 24/7, will return to a day-time A&E.
Councillor Ray Wootten said he recently visited Lincoln where there were 60 people waiting to be seen so asked “why can’t we open fully or even 12 hours?”
“You must acknowledge that the UTC at Grantham has been a success, not just for you but for the people of Grantham. There is demand for that service so don’t you think you should at least reconsider the hours?”
Health bosses, however, said that the UTC would be “unsustainable” as staff returned back to their normal roles.
Mr Brassington thanked Lincolnshire Community Health Service for providing the service, adding: “it is unfortunate that we’re not able to maintain that as we head forward into the future.”
Simon Evans, Chief Operating Officer at ULHT, said: “The UTC has been terribly successful model in the circumstances that we’ve been put in I think they’ve done a tremendous job.
“They’ve actually managed to offer service to the wider Grantham population and others in a way that absolutely met the demands during that COVID period, so I agree, but unfortunately, it is a different one and we’re not able to just continue to operate as a 24 hour rate.”
He said the trust was working on improvements to tackle “pinch points” in the waiting rooms and had already expanded its A&E and Urgent treatment provision over the past couple of months.