November 11, 2021 11.36 am

Patients turned away from Lincolnshire Urgent Treatment Centre due to ‘high demand’

Staff shortages causing issues

Patients have been diverted away from Skegness Urgent Treatment Centre due to high demand this week.

It comes as councillors raised concerns over whether planned changes to NHS services in the county could be properly staffed.

Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee had been discussing the proposed downgrade of Grantham’s Accident and Emergency Department to an Urgent Treatment Centre as part of wider plans for the county.

Committee chairman Councillor Carl Macey had already raised concerns over Lincolnshire Community Health Service’s ability to manage staffing levels.

“One example is Skegness where they often have not had [an] on duty doctor for days, they regularly only have two nurses to cover and in turn members of staff have been sent to prop up services in both Louth and Pilgrim,” he said.

“So how confident are you that this service will be truly sustainable and it won’t be within a matter of weeks or months, only available between 8am and 8pm providing the minimum UTC service due to staff shortages?”

Shortly after, he and Councillor Colin Matthews interceded to say they had been told “UTC is closed today due to staff shortages”.

A spokesman for LCHS, however, confirmed after the meeting that the UTC had not closed, but had instead been diverting patients to the 101 service for a “short period” that morning but had “resumed business as usual” by 9am.

They said it had not been due to staff shortages, but instead high levels of demand at the time.

During the meeting Dr Yvonne Owen, however, said recent staff shortages had been “nothing to do with the model of care” but instead were a wider “temporary issue” which was “felt right across the NHS” due to COVID-19.

“It’s purely related to illness and the need for isolation if somebody within your household becomes COVID positive,” she said.

She questioned whether reports LCHS had “gone for days without a doctor” were accurate and said it had only been “occasional shifts”.

She added the trust was “quite constructive with our staffing” to make sure services were maintained.

“Certainly in terms of standing down availability, that has not had to happen because we have been able to cross cover.

“This is a temporary issue that is being felt across the whole of the health service and I would imagine in other public services as well.”

Other concerns raised during the meeting included the level of attention paid to those opposed to the plans, the number of patients travelling out of the county, the impact on the distance those on the east coast would have to travel, and the level of service that would be provided.

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