Health bosses pledge to keep and expand hospital services

Chief executive of the hospitals trust Andrew North says the hospital is safe.
Chief executive of the hospitals trust Andrew North says the hospital is safe.

THE hospital and its vital services are safe in Grantham, say trust bosses.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Andrew North and new director of finance Kevin Turner told the Journal this week that A&E and maternity will stay open and more services are on their way.

Mr North said: “From where I’m sitting we see Grantham itself as having a really bright future.”

This comes less than a month after the trust, which predicted a deficit of £14m by April, said it could not give any assurances to people that the hospital’s vital services, such as A&E and maternity, were safe.

A spokesman said: “It’s not really a change of heart, more the way of how we answer questions. People were becoming worried so we wanted to reassure them.”

Instead of cutting services, Mr North believes more money could be brought in by introducing more services to Grantham Hospital. Ideas include an oncology and haematology daycase facility and a rehabilitation centre.

He said: “It’s clear that a lot of people are going to places like Nottingham and Peterborough and they’re doing that because we’re not providing as broad a range of services as we perhaps need.

“The future for Grantham is to expand services so that these people who go to other places don’t have to - unless we can’t do it sensibly and safely in Grantham.

“We are certainly not talking about shutting A&E at Grantham Hospital and we are not proposing to withdraw the maternity services.”

The trust says it plans to save money by redesigning services with the help of Lincolnshire Primary Care Trust and community partners including the Grantham Hospital Defence Committee.

This will include trying to provide alternatives to hospital admission and working to reduce length of stay.

But Mr North admitted job losses in the trust are inevitable as efforts are made to make savings.

He said: “The set of initiatives is bound to change things in Grantham but we are not about to start cutting services in Grantham.

“It certainly isn’t about cutting services in Grantham in order to develop them in Lincoln or Boston.”

The £14m deficit occurred because the trust did not fully achieve savings it expected to make. It also incurred unexpected staffing costs.

Mr Turner, who took up the post of director of finance three weeks ago, said he is hoping to work with hospital staff to decide where savings should be made.

He said: “We haven’t got all the magic answers in terms of total savings.

“It’s a difficult challenge in Lincolnshire especially because we are starting from a position where we haven’t hit our savings for this year.”

It is expected to take around two years to get the trust back on a sound financial footing.

Mr North said: “I think this is the long haul. Do I know how to save all the money in four or five years? No. But I think we have got really good ideas about where to start and how to start.”