Grantham Journal column: Campaigners share the common goal of protecting services

Members of SoS Grantham Hospital took part in the #OurNHS march.
Members of SoS Grantham Hospital took part in the #OurNHS march.

Those involved in the Grantham Hospital campaign have been monitoring the decisions affecting the future of our hospital and local health services.

Last Friday I visited officers at Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) to find out what has happened to the referral of the decision by United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust to temporarily close our Accident and Emergency Unit at night.

The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP Secretary of State for Health had referred the decision to an Independent Review Panel (IRP).

Despite several months now there is no news.

Furthermore, the recently published minutes of the last LCC Health and Scrutiny Committee show that there is not one - but two stages our case must go through within the IRP process.

First high level, and if it is determined the case should go further, a detailed IRP, at which point wider consultation will be carried out and we should be able to submit evidence.

The slow progress of the case does not reflect the urgency of the situation.

Every night local people, without public transport are forced to travel miles to their nearest A&E and local lives remain at risk whilst the unit is closed.

It is beginning to feel more like a stalling exercise.

This Monday health campaigners from across Lincolnshire came together to attend a meeting hosted by Healthwatch Lincolnshire, our local health watchdog.

Representatives from SOS Grantham Hospital, Fighting4Grantham Hospital, Fight4Lincs Lives joined campaigners from Louth, Boston Pilgrim and Skegness.

We all put our concerns forward and shared the action we are taking.

We share the common goal of protecting vital local hospital services.

We were therefore extremely concerned to hear that the Lincolnshire Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP) is to be further delayed, and, is unlikely to be published until next year.

It is particularly concerning because firstly, according to NHS England’s website: http://lincolnshirehealthandcare.org/en/stp/ it is published waiting public consultation, and secondly, Lincolnshire Health and Care (LHAC), led by their new chairman John Turner (from NHS Scotland), can make changes to health services in the meanwhile not deemed significant without referring to the public.

As this includes the entire restructure of some GP practices it is clear such decisions also need public scrutiny.

LHAC has identified some key areas they will consult on including Accident and Emergency, Women and Children, Stroke, etc but the lack of an overall work programme I feel reflects the poor management within LHAC, and, denies us visibility of what is happening to the health services we all pay for.

Stakeholder groups will be consulted yet interestingly, none of our campaign groups are included, which is an issue raised with the watchdog.

As we work together to defend and improve our hospital services across Lincolnshire a final point was made clear. The outcome of the forthcoming General Election will determine the future of our NHS and our local hospital services.