Is 24-hour winter urgent care service on cards?

Grantham A&E
Grantham A&E
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The option of opening a 24-hour urgent care service at Grantham in time for the winter is being looked at by county health authorities.

A report by John Turner, chief officer of South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), says the interim move could be made in the next few months.

In his report to next week’s meeting of the Lincolnshire Health and Wellbeing Board, Mr Turner says: “Over the next few months, whilst working with stakeholders before consulting the public on the long-term solution; ULHT, Lincolnshire Community Health Services (LCHS) and South West Lincolnshire CCG are working together to explore an interim 24-hour urgent care service for Grantham Hospital. This work is being led by clinical staff to ensure Grantham residents will be able to access services for urgent care quickly and easily, day and night. The plan is to develop and implement this in the next few months ready for this winter.”

Grantham A&E unit has been closed overnight since August 17 last year. It is currently closed between 6.30pm and 8am.

At the annual meeting of South West Lincs CCG on Tuesday, it was also announced that an interim option was being looked at although the chairman of the CCG would not be specific about the service that might be installed.

The CCG said it is working closely with both United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) and LCHS on the future of Grantham A&E.

Specifically, the CCG is working to explore how for this coming winter it can realistically enhance current services at Grantham A&E.

In addition, the CCG reported positive discussions with ULHT and LCHS about a long-term solution for Grantham A&E.

Dr Dave Baker, GP and acting chairman of South West Lincolnshire CCG, said: “As a local GP and resident I am encouraged by the way in which discussions are going. We emphasised at our annual public meeting that the CCG remains totally committed to sharing the detail of our plans for Grantham A&E, both for the short and long-term, and engaging with local people as soon as possible.

“As soon as we are able to do so we will put our plans into the public domain and, as part of this, we intend to share our thoughts about what a positive option for Grantham A&E in the long-term looks like, and this will form a key part of a public consultation.”

However, Melissa Darcey, of campaign group Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, said the situation remains as confusing as it did 13 months ago.

She said: “We are getting contradictory statements from different health bosses. The Sustainability and Transformation Plan lead John Turner said there is no real plan yet and they are still discussing it with the hospital trust board and LCHS. I will not dispute that if there is going to be an open door policy at the A&E for 24 hours for us to be able to walk in and gain some sort of urgent care that that is better than what we have now.”

Sarah Stock, also of Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, added: “When pushed on the question of what ‘service’ Grantham would have, Dr Baker informed the room that we would not have a minor injuries unit and then went on to state that we would also not have an urgent care centre. He was asked to repeat this for clarity and confirmation. He could not, however, tell us what service we would have and failed to acknowledge that we would have a consultant-led service.”

Local councillor Ray Wootten said: “The future of Grantham Hospital and its A&E is an important part of the healthcare, not only for Grantham but for the district and I welcome more information when it becomes available for public consultation.”

Meanwhile, Grantham MP Nick Boles (pictured below) insists there is no intention of turning the town’s A&E unit into an urgent care centre.

Mr Boles says the local CCG needs to be more open about the options for the unit which has been closed overnight since August last year.

Making a statement a day after the annual meeting of the CCG, Mr Boles said: “It is a great shame that bureaucrats at NHS England won’t let local commissioners at the CCG be more open about the different options for the future of Grantham A&E.

“So I am going to be crystal clear. There is no plan to downgrade the existing A&E service at Grantham and turn it into an urgent care centre. If there were, I would fight it tooth and nail.

“What is being discussed is the option of retaining the existing A&E service from early morning until late evening and re-opening it at night with the staffing appropriate for an urgent care centre or minor injuries unit.

“While other options will also be explored and consulted on, I think this idea is particularly worth pursuing as it offers the prospect of restoring Grantham’s 24/7 emergency service in a way that isn’t so dependent on the recruitment of A&E doctors.”