An audience of more than 200 people gathered at St Wulfram’s Church yesterday (Thursday) to bring Grantham Hospital bosses to task over the closure of A&E at night.
Many members of the audience made their anger plain at the meeting where Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, and chief operating officer Mark Brassington explained their decision to close the A&E department for three months between 6.30pm and 9am.
The 90-minute meeting was regularly punctuated by heckling and groans of disapproval.
The meeting was organised by campaign group Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital and hosted by the Rector of St Wulfram’s, Fr Stuart Cradduck, who earlier tweeted: “We’re delighted to be asked to host this event, and will do all we can to support the campaign.”
On more than one occasion it was put to Dr Kapadia and Mr Brassington that it was believed they were planning to close A&E and downgrade it to an urgent care centre.
When Dr Kapadia denied this and said no decision on the future of A&E had been made, Coun Ray Wootten said he was telling a ‘porkie pie’ as he had been reliably told there was a plan to downgrade it to an urgent care centre.
Coun Charmaine Morgan put to Dr Kapadia and Mr Brassington that they had put forward a plan, on August 2, to close A&E and stop acute admissions entirely to the hospital. She said this had been refused by the trust board. Coun Morgan said: “This would have left us effectively without any services at Grantham.”
But Mr Brassington said it was not true they had put forward such a plan.
Asked for a guarantee that A&E would be reopened 24 hours a day, Mr Brassington said: “We have a commitment to reopen the unit and that commitment is to reopen it as prior.”
Chairman of Grantham Business Club Darren Joint asked why, as Grantham is a centre of growth, that major growth did not seem to be taken into account at Grantham Hospital.
Mr Brassington said: “We recognise the importance of Grantham as a hospital and as a trust all the sites are important to each community. But the way that health services need to be run will different in future. We are not sure what those differences look like yet.”
Dr Kapadia told the meeting that he had never said Grantham was a level 3 unit, one which maintained a few elements of an A&E. He said that Grantham A&E lay between level one, a unit which could deal with all kinds of emergencies and an urgent care unit.
He said patients needing emergency care, such as heart attack patients, are taken to those units where they can get expert care such as Lincoln Heart Centre. He said since the centre was opened there had been a seven per cent mortality rate compared with 13per cent before.
But Dr Kapadia admitted closing Grantham A&E overnight was “not the perfect solution”. He said: “What we have put in place is the least worst solution”.
ULHT was accused of putting Grantham Hospital on the backburner and investing in Boston and Lincoln instead. Dr Kapadia repsonded by saying: “Grantham Hospoital plays a key part in the delivery of healthcare across Lincolnshire. It’s an integral part of ULHT.”
Jody Clark, who set up Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital, said she was delighted with the turnout at the meeting. She said: “There were a lot more here than I was expecting.
“I think the trust blames the Government and the Government blames the trust for what is happening. They tell me that the rural areas are quite bad as you can see in Cumbria and Cornwall as well as Lincolnshire. But I know Lincoln is more under pressure now that Grantham is closed and our A&E is having a knock-on effect which they seem to be ingoring. I think the figures they are giving us are a bit manipulative.”