The man spearheading the plan for the county’s healthcare for the next five years says the public will play an important part in shaping it.
Allan Kitt, chief officer of South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, is leading the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for Lincolnshire.
He told the Journal that the people of the county will be fully consulted next year on changes to healthcare services, including any plans to downgrade A&E at Grantham.
He said: “It’s a legal requirement to have a full public consultation. People are really worried about losing their services and about having to travel for those services.
“I am on record as saying we were not happy about them closing A&E at night. It’s never been our plan not to have a 24-hour service. We are working with the trust to get a 24-hour service back as soon as we can. People are concerned that if we do something differently that means it is downgrading, but that’s not always the case.”
Mr Kitt said serious incidents such as heart attacks and strokes will be dealt with in Lincoln and elsewhere, but insisted he wanted to keep a 24-hour service in the town. He said there were temporary consultants at night at Grantham A&E but they were very rarely called.
He said the staff at Grantham A&E ‘do a cracking job’ and added: “ What we need to know is what does a sustainable workforce look like at Grantham that can deliver a 24-hour service and how do you do it so that people get a good outcome and a good experience?”
He said the the other main issues at Grantham were high dependency care and intensive care which would also be part of the consultation.
Mr Kitt added: “People will be worried but the changes will affect a very, very small number of people. The aim is that Grantham Hospital is the hub of our local healthcare system. We would like it that the vast majoirty of people that need local hospital services go to Grantham. That’s our agenda. It’s a well regarded, well-loved hospital with some really well motivated staff. And I understand how frustrated people are when Grantham is the A&E that had more doctors than any of them, but sometimes it’s about doing the right thing for the whole of the people of Lincolnshire.
“It will be a full, open, transparent public consultation. We do want to know what people think because if you have got difficult choices you need to have the input of the people using the services.”
Grantham A&E was closed at night in August when doctors were transfered to A&Es in Boston and Lincoln where the hospitals trust said it had a staffing crisis.
Mr Kitt said services needed to be well used and safe. He said the population of Grantham and district was not enough to sustain an acute district general hospital with full services.
He said: “The service provided by A&E at Grantham, much of it is the right kind of service for the people of Grantham and the surrounding district. While it does not do a lot of the things other A&Es do it has a GP and it works closely with the out of hours service and it’s actually a really good model and we want to get that back up and running but we don’t advocate that Grantham should be developed as a full district general hospital with all these services because we don’t have the population for it. It wouldn’t be safe.”
Mr Kitt said services are better provided by people who are specialising in a service day in, day out and not just once a week in smaller hospitals. He added: “Even if we had an unlimited budget in Lincolnshire the way we are delivering it is not the best way to do it. “
The public consultation on the STP is due to begin in May next year.