A bid to refer a decision to downgrade Grantham’s A&E to the Secretary of State has been rejected after threats it would be “massively detrimental” to Lincolnshire’s healthcare.
Councillors at Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee were discussing NHS Lincolnshire CCG’s changes to four NHS services in Lincolnshire, including replacing Grantham’s A&E with a 24 hour Urgent Treatment Centre.
It followed a meeting of South Kesteven District Council on Tuesday in which a watered down proposal was approved despite a local council predicting the move to be .
At LCC, Councillor Ray Wootten proposed sending the decision to the Secretary of State, calling the UTC a “glorified doctor’s surgery”.
“We’ve had rallies in Grantham, we’ve had petitions and I believe our voice has not been listened to,” he said.
Councillor Wootten is among a number of patients who have outlined their experiences under the current A&E, having to recently endure a 13-hour wait following a strokes.
There are concerns residents would face long delays, that already-pressured ambulance services will not be able to keep up with demand and that beds will be lost.
Worries also include staff shortages and whether UTCs will be able to stay open, pointing to a recent issue in Louth and previously in Skegness.
Councillors and residents also fear the changes are part of wider, long-term plans to centralise all major services to Lincoln County Hospital.
However, Peter Burnett, System Strategy and Planning Director at Lincolnshire CCG, said there was support for the move.
Despite polls showing locals against losing A&E services in Grantham and Boston, he said wider surveys had seen more than 70% agree with the changes.
He added clinicians, including the East Midlands and East of England Clinical Senate, had approved the plans.
He also appeared confident a predicted 700 extra patient journeys, and the change of 70 beds to being mixed community acute would be handled.
He said the referral would “be massively detrimental to the populations that we service.”
“In that regards, if you refer Grantham A&E that means the length of time they fail to take place… I’m not sure that would lead to the outcome expected,” he said.
He noted previous attempts to reverse “temporary” changes to Grantham A&E had failed.
He said it would delay patients access to medicine and community beds, as well as delay the 24/7 access to the A&E.
“That temporary change that people have got [which] has been going on for too long… will remain in place.”
He added stroke service would “remain fragile”.
“Based on the clinical view that will only be detrimental to the population of Lincolnshire because they won’t have access to those services.”
Cllr Wootten said the campaign had been going on since 2014 so a few more months wouldn’t matter and would improve the decision.
However, a number of councillors were swayed by the threat of delays, with Councillor Sarah Parkin saying: “I am really worried about what we have been told about the implications for referrals.”
She praised the Grantham campaign but said: “I would request that we have the most due diligence and take seriously the warning that has been delivered about holding this process up.”
Councillors voted instead to have the changes continually brought back to them to scrutinise, with particular emphasis on staffing recruitment and retention, transport and travel, and funding.