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Campaigners demand return of 24-hour A&E to Grantham Hospital after MPs meet with health secretary

Health campaigners in Grantham have demanded a 24-hour A&E is brought back to Grantham Hospital after local MPs met with health secretary Matt Hancock.

Grantham MP Gareth Davies and Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Davies met with Mr Hancock last week. They insist they are doing everything they can to bring back a 24-hour A&E to Grantham Hospital after they held talks with the Secretary of State.

But health campaigners fear that the preferred option of a urgent treatment centre (UTC) will replace the A&E unit.

MPs Caroline Johnson and Gareth Davies meet health secretary Matt Hancock. (27447705)
MPs Caroline Johnson and Gareth Davies meet health secretary Matt Hancock. (27447705)

Charmaine Morgan, chair of SOS Grantham Hospital, said she understood that an urgent treatment centre at Grantham would still be able to resuscitate patients and stabilise them in an emergency. But she added: “There is still that concern that the most seriously ill patients would be required to travel the furthest to get to a hospital. The trust and CCG are making a judgement call on the safety of those patients.”

Campaigner Sarah Stock, of Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, said of the A&E situation: “This is not acceptable for the residents of Grantham and surrounding areas. An urgent treatment centre is vastly different from a Level 1 24/7 accident and emergency department, but they have systematically removed the supporting services of high dependency beds, intensive care, critical care and cardiac care to the extent that a 24/7 Level 1 A & E is impossible to be returned as promised. They have misled the public from day one of the closure and they never had any intention of resuming this service.”

"This 24 hour “service”is a poor compromise and the residents of Grantham and surrounding villages are being fobbed off by a decision made years ago to remove our A&E.

"The domino effect of these decisions to remove A&E services in every county will see patients' lives put at risk as travel times to the nearest fully functioning A&E is too far to sustain life and the waiting times, on top of the travel times is detrimental to our well being. And as a doctor, Caroline Johnson in particular should know better! They should all be held to account for this decision when lives are lost because of it.

"Lincolnshire is one of the poorest performing A&E waiting time targets, and if you compare it with other counties, they’re all underperforming, because they have closed too many A&E departments and are relying on a reduced provision, which increases waiting times, as more and more people are filtered into the same place. The public are “blamed” for their poor decisions! They are not listening to the public, because they already have a national agenda to reduce vital services and to reduce beds in every county. They are a disgrace!”

Jody Clark, campaigner for Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital, said the overnight closure at Grantham A&E had gone on too long. “We will not accept anything less than24/7 walk-in access at Grantham Hospital and we have already waited long enough,” she said.“We need the public consultation to resolve the overnight closure now.

“Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital will continue to hold the providers to account and push for a swift resolution. Our community has waited too long. We will keep fighting to ensure we have safe local services back.”

Meanwhile, Health bosses say there are ‘no plans’ to return Grantham A&E to a 24/7 service until a public consultation on the future of hospital services is complete.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (ULHT) closed the department overnight in August 2016.

Mark Brassington, chief operating officer for ULHT, told the Health Scrutiny Panel for Lincolnshire that the trust had no plans to extend the hours of the service at this time. “As an organisation, we will not be opening it 24/7 until the completion of the Healthy Conversations and consultation process,” he said.

Grantham councillor Ray Wootten reminded hospital bosses that the department has been closed overnight for 1,253 days. Proposals for the future of Grantham A&E will go out to public consultation led by the Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership.

Health bosses said last year that the preferred option was for the department to become an urgent treatment centre.

Officials at the STP said earlier this month that no public consultation will take place until capital funding is secured for the shake-up plans.

A bid for further funding is expected to be lodged to government this Spring.

It was revealed last year that proposals for hospitals in the region would cost around £450 million over the next decade, with “suggested changes” in the acute services review costing £52 million alone.

Gareth Davies told the Journal that he and fellow Conservative MP Caroline Johnson came away from their meeting with Mr Hancock ‘encouraged’. He said: “The secretary appreciates we will push for a 24-hour, seven days a week service. “The situation isn’t good enough and I don’t want people turned away in an emergency situation.

“I and Caroline will be working together and straining every sinew to get the A&E reopened overnight and for Grantham Hospital to get the investment it needs.”

Dr Johnson said: “This is a very personal issue for me. The brilliant staff at Grantham Hospital have saved my husband’s life not once, but twice.”

Dr Johnson welcomed the opening of a new medical school in Lincoln, but added: “This plan will do much to help fill the staffing gap in the long term - however my constituents need a solution now and I am working with Gareth to push for an around the clock service as soon as possible.”

Councillor Ray Wootten is putting a motion before South Kesteven District Council on Thursday, calling for proposals for the future of Grantham Hospital to be published as soon as possible.

ULHT and the South West CCG are due to publish their plans ahead of a consultation which could take place this year.

John Turner, the chief officer for the county’s four clinical commissioning groups, spoke last week at a meeting of SKDC’s Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Coun Wootten.

Mr Turner said a 24/7 urgent treatment centre at the hospital and a surgical centre of excellence were among options they were looking to progress and would be covered in the final report from last year’s Healthy Conversation.

After the meeting, Coun Wootten, said: “It has been more than three and a halfyears since the overnight closure of Grantham’s A&E. It is vital that the plans for health services in Lincolnshire and the options for Grantham Hospital in particular are made clear.

“Grantham and the surrounding area deserves nothing less than a 24/7 service and no fewer services than it delivers now. We are a rural county and travel is not easy and it can’t be right that after being taken by ambulance to hospital in Lincoln people who can least afford it are expected to pay extortionate taxi fees to return home.

“This has been a longprocess and I sincerely hope that campaigners and the people of this area have been listened to.”

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