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Concerns remain over future of Grantham Hospital services as £20 billion investment in NHS announced

By Grantham Reporter

A new 10-year-plan for the national NHS is an “exciting opportunity” according to Lincolnshire’s hospitals boss, but campaigners say there are still major concerns over the future of Grantham Hospital services.

United Lincolnshire Hospital’s Trust chief executive Jan Sobieraj gave his initial thoughts on national The NHS Long Term Plan during a meeting of the organisation’s board.

The plan, which will see an extra £20 billion injected into the NHS by 2023, will see GPs, mental health and community care get the biggest funding increases as the focus shifts away from hospital treatment into home and community care.

Grantham Hospital (6391460)
Grantham Hospital (6391460)

Mr Sobieraj said: “The first thing to say is it’s a really exciting opportunity for the NHS because the NHS is going to be receiving this new money over the next few years and that’s despite some of the pressures on Government on its expenditure programme so we feel quite privileged to have that opportunity.

“It’s not just about the money but a whole new approach and what we’ve picked up is some of the things which were pointed out in our five-year plan back in Autumn 2016 across Lincolnshire, known as the STP.”

He said this included the main themes of self-care, better ways of supporting people with mental health, the use of technology and early cancer detection in children.

It also included bringing care closer to home, rather than in hospitals, with Mr Sobieraj saying: “The nature of illness has changed since the NHS was formed 70 years ago when the hospital was the only place you could go for proper treatment. That’s no longer the case, primary care plays a huge role.”

A timeline published by the Government asks for draft local plans to be published by April of this year with the full five-year plans following in Autumn.

Mr Sobieraj said he would like to see consultation on the implications of the long-term plan happening “sooner rather than later”.

“If there are any specific service changes of significance to patients and staff we’ll absolutely go out to consultation formally on that but what you’re seeing today is the excitement around a different approach to how NHS services are provided which won’t require consultation because everyone agrees it’s a good thing.”

Grantham councillor and local campaigner Ray Wootten welcomed the plan. He said: "There are still lots of challenges within the NHS that need to be addressed over the coming years. Having attended ULHT board meetings for over 11 years I am pleased that the high levels of bureaucracy that exist are going to be tackled.

"I now see the NHS evolving with new technology and working practices, but retaining its core values.

"However, locally we await the Acute Service Review to establish how this translates for ULHT and, in particular, for Grantham Hospital. I support the two tier approach for emergency admissions to address the four hour waiting target at A&E.

"Even at Peterborough Hospital, they find it hard to achieve the 95 per cent target and it is right for those with life threatening conditions to be seen first.

"Prior to 1948 healthcare came at a cost which most families could not afford, but through our taxation system, treatment is free to all, regardless of income. We have just celebrated 70 years of our NHS and with this long term plan and extra funding we can look forward to the NHS 80th birthday."

Health campaigner Charmaine Morgan, chair of SOS Grantham Hospital, told the Journal said that promises made in the plan are open to challenge and are a cause for concern.

Coun Morgan said: "The change to the budget promised, far from delivering the increases described, in fact restore the NHS budget to its 2010 levels. There is a staggering 100,000 fewer nurses in the NHS than we need to deliver key health services and a shortage of 5,000 mental health nurses.

"The news that maternity services will be improved should be welcomed but in reality maternity and paediatric services are among those most affected by centralisation plans and budget cuts with maternity units, including Grantham Hospital's unit, being closed across the country. The announcement of personal health budgets slipped in among the other promises is hugely concerning. It smacks of a USA style healthcare system and raises the immediate question of what happens if your budget runs out? Whilst there is a renewed focus on Care in the Community to meet the challenge of an elderly population with multiple health issues the lack of staff remains an issue.

"Locally United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has announced a further delay in its release of the Lincolnshire Sustainability Transformation Plans. Not only does this raise questions over previous announcements but is also raises questions over how ULHT have been allowed to move key staff, including consultants at Grantham Hospital, and restructure key health services without the need to consult with the public affected by those changes.

"One area however that ULHT has some support is its inability to properly plan without knowing what the impact of Brexit will be. They are not alone. Across the UK hospital trusts are struggling to recruit trained staff and, according to the Kings Fund, Brexit is affecting the retention of EEA staff. Another important consideration for our NHS as a result of Brexit will be the availability of drugs. The governments plans are shifting funding from hospital services to Care in the Community. Preventing illness rather than treating it is a concept behind Public Health. Public Health service providers were among those worst affected by early austerity measures. Reinvestment in Public Services is welcome but can only partially make up for the funding losses of the past five years.

"Given the underfunding of hospital trusts and current level of debt the new focus on Care in the Community spending, without retaining hospital funding is hugely concerning and has been called unsustainable. The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit makes it even harder for any organisation, let alone a hospital Trust to plan ahead. Whatever happens there will be no immediate fix to the crisis our NHS is facing. Recruiting and training staff and even gaining benefit from funding changes take time."


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