Lincolnshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee has refused to back hospital bosses’ plans to ‘downgrade’ urology services across the county.
Under the proposals, Lincoln County Hospital would receive all future emergency urology admissions, seven days a week, while Pilgrim Hospital Boston, Grantham Hospital and Louth Hospital would all tackle elective and day case theatre lists, as well as assessment.
Members of the scrutiny committee are worried about the impact of the proposals and on Wednesday agreed to a draft letter to United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust chief executive Andrew Morgan, raising their concerns.
The letter states they are “pleased” to see plans for increased theatre capacity at Grantham Hospital, but are not in a position to support full proposals.
Councillors called for more information and reassurance, including around concerns over the impact on Pilgrim Hospital before they could move forward.
The changes would see increases in planned urology services at Grantham and District Hospital and Pilgrim Hospital, with a reduction of planned procedures at Lincoln County Hospital. And Pilgrim Hospital would no longer handle any emergency admissions.
“The committee sees the proposal not to treat emergency urology patients at Pilgrim Hospital as an example of a service being removed,” it said.
“This is at a time when the local community would like to see more commitment from the trust… so the local community can be confident that a range of hospital services will be maintained there.”
Healthwatch member Dr Brian Wookey said there was “very real” anxiety the changes were a “drip, drip” process to centralisation.
Councillor Stephen Woodliffe said Boston Borough Council also planned to carry out its own scrutiny into the decision in September.
The letter also notes the distance patients would have to travel by ambulance, the impact on “walk-in” patients who then find themselves being transferred, the travel arrangements for returning patients home and the subsequent impact on EMAS’s ability to respond to other emergencies.
Hospital bosses told a previous scrutiny committee in June that they are hoping the proposals 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.
They moved to reassure members the changes 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 at the time.
“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.”
Planned urology services are currently delivered from Lincoln County Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Grantham and District Hospital and Louth County Hospital; and emergency urology admissions at the weekends go through one single site, alternating between Lincoln County and Pilgrim Hospitals. There are emergency admissions at both Lincoln and Pilgrim Hospitals during the week.