Grantham has united in anger over the threat to the town’s accident and emergency unit.
The past week has seen protest rallies and a candlelight vigil take place, with further vigils and a protest march planned.
Campaign group SOS Grantham Hospital has been busy drumming up support and encouraging people to sign its petition, while a Facebook campaign group – Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital – has gained more than 5,200 members in just days.
The action follows the decision made last week by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) to close Grantham’s A&E between 6.30pm and 9am every day, for a three-month period.
As The Journal reported last week, the trust says it has no other option than to close the unit overnight to boost staffing levels at its two other hospitals, Lincoln County and Boston Pilgrim, as staffing levels there have reached ‘crisis point’. It says the decision is necessary to protect the safety of patients across the county as a whole.
However, no assurances have been given that full opening hours will then be reinstated after three months.
Chairman of SOS Grantham Hospital, Councillor Charmaine Morgan, said: “There is broad concern that the criteria ULHT have set for the restoration of services will not be achievable in the current climate within any reasonable timeframe and certainly not within three months given there have been staffing issues at ULHT for years. This raises a question about just how ‘temporary’ the change is.
“The longer the A&E service is cut at Grantham Hospital the more likely it is that ULHT will lose more A&E staff overall.”
The first protest rally was on Saturday, attended by around 300 people – both patients and hospital staff, according to Coun Morgan.
This was followed yesterday (Wednesday) with a further rally and candlelight vigil, where Labour district councillor, and former Mayor of Grantham, Ian Selby was dressed as the Grim Reaper. He held a sign reading ‘ULHT sacrifice our A&E, lives in peril’ and a scythe emblazoned with ‘Grantham and rural areas need A&E 24/7’. He also handed black balloons to children present.
He told the Journal today: “Like everyone else, I’m worried sick about this hospital.
“It’s bad enough for people living in Grantham but think about the rural areas – people living 10 miles from Grantham will have an extra half hour added to their journey [to Lincoln or Boston].”
On the turnout to the protest on Wednesday and Saturday, he said: “There’s a lot of people who are tied to work commitments who can’t get to the rallies. But there were a lot of people going past tooting their horns – they know why we were there.
“There’s a lot of angry people out there.”
Also backing the campaign is Father Stuart Cradduck, rector of St Wulfram’s Church, who took doughnuts along to yesterday’s candlelight vigil.
He is looking into attaching campaign banners to the towers of St Wulfram’s Church and St John the Evangelist at Manthorpe, for which he is vicar, in support.
** [http://www.thepetitionsite.com/948/618/734/stop-united-lincolnshire-hospital-trust-downgrading-grantham-hospital-ae-now/|SIGN THE PETITION HERE}