There are fears patients on the East Coast, faced with tough choices over travel, could be put off getting help with knee or hip pains as Lincolnshire health bosses look to relocate services to Grantham.
People are currently being consulted on the Lincolnshire Acute Services Review which will see an orthopaedic “Centre of Excellence” set up in Grantham for planned surgery cases.
Councillors at Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday asked a series of questions, with many focusing on how patients would have to travel to the centre.
Lincoln and Boston hospitals would only be for planned “high risk” patients and unplanned surgery. Louth County Hospital would also provide a dedicated day centre.
Councillor Sarah Parkin said: “In terms of how people will respond, whether they are coming forward into primary care for knees and hips, is there any evidence people are struggling in these communities with these needs unmet because they are reticent about coming forward?
“Is there any idea how that could impact on numbers…. whether in fact we will have more patients with greater complex needs, who have been in chronic pain for a long time as a result?”
Councillor Colin Matthews said he’d had numerous complaints from patients having to travel to Grantham for operations.
“You’ve said people are ‘willing’ to travel because they are likely to get the operation.
“I don’t doubt that, but what I think is the wrong word there is ‘willing’, it’s Hobson’s choice. We’ve got a crippled community on the East Coast who ‘have’ to travel to where they can get the operation.
“There’s a culture of anxiety about travelling and I think that means probably they’re not taking up the opportunity to come and have surgery, and that’s contributing to poor lifestyle choices here because they’re actually worried.”
Vel Sakthivel, Consultant in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon, acknowledged people were currently waiting longer due to a variety of issues, but he said the trust would be encouraging people to get help.
“We can reassure the public we have restarted our elected orthopaedic clinic appointments… we are beginning to see new referrals coming in to us as well.”
He told councillors he believed patients would be willing to travel if they were to recieve “excellent care”.
Councillors were also reassured that patients would have access to specialist transport to counter difficulties they may face.
Health bosses say the changes will result in reduced waiting times, fewer cancellations due to a lack of beds and shorter lengths of stay.
They say that it will also reduce the amount of people going out of the county, allowing them to be treated in Lincolnshire and in some cases return home the same day.
Pete Burnett, System Strategy and Planning Director, Lincolnshire NHS, said: “The beauty of Grantham is even if it is longer because of the journey time, if you know you’re going to be seen quicker because waiting lists are shorter and you’re going to be seen on the day… the relative impact of a slightly longer journey time is slightly reduced.”