Concerns raised over future of health services in Grantham
There was a small turnout for the second Healthy Conversation meeting to debate the future of health services in Grantham.
The workshop, held at the Jubilee Church Life Centre, London Road, on Wednesday, was a follow-up to the Healthy Conversation engagement event held in March which attracted more than 100 people.
Wednesday’s workshop attacted only about 10 members of the public. They discussed their concerns over the proposal to introduce an urgent treatment centre at Grantham Hospital to replace A&E and they discussed concerns over patient transport in the county.
Also attending the workshop were representatives of the the NHS, local clinical commissioning groups and East Midlands Ambulance Service.
John Turner, accountable officer for the South West and South Lincolnshire CCGs, addressed the meeting. He said the low turnout was evidence that more engagement events were needed and people would need more notice.
He also commented on reports that people attending the event would have to sign ‘gagging orders’. He said: “It should not have happened. It was a mistake.” But he did agree that the workshops should be held under Chatham House Rules which protected the confidentiality of attendees so they could tell their stories without being named.
One of the main concerns raised was the loss of A&E at Grantham, to be replaced by a UTC. Dr David Baker, chairman of the South West Lincolnshire CCG, said he recognised this concern but said Grantham A&E has been operating like a UTC for some years. He said once it became a UTC people would notice little difference. He said: “It will deliver almost all our current A&E services, but over a 24 hour period. We have not had a full A&E service for many years. I think what we have come up with is a sensible compromise having taken on board the views of local people.”
Another major concern raised was the NHS 111 service which will be used to direct people to the UTC. People will be able to book appointments at the UTC through 111, but it was pointed out that the current 111 service was not popular. Dr Baker agreed there had been problems with the service which needed to be ironed out, but that it was necessary to have the 111 service in place so that spikes in patients attending the UTC could be prevented and delays avoided. People will still be able to attend the UTC without booking.
Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital campaigner Jody Clark said: “People have no faith in the 111 system so there’s no way they’re going happy with that as an overnight service. Especially when Louth and Skegness are open all night.”
Concerns were raised over transport of patients in the county. It was pointed out that Grantham patients who needed to travel to other hospital such as Boston or Lincoln were often left stranded late at night after appointments. In some cases Grantham patients had no choice but to take a taxi home from Lincoln which had cost them up to £60.
It was suggested that a bus service, like the existing Callconnect service, could be set up to help people get to and from hospital. It was also suggested a network of volunteer drivers might be established so that they could be on call to help transport patients.
Attendees were told that the cost of these options would have to be taken into account, but that all the suggestions would be looked at.
District and county councillor Ray Wootten questioned whether the concerns of local people would be listened to. He said: “What happened to the petition signed by 64,000 people and presented to 10 Downing Street? What happened to the views of those people on the three marches through Grantham? What happened as a result of the previous consultations and the views heard at ULHT board meetings? They didn’t listen.”
Mr Wootten said he was disappointed with the low turnout at the meeting and urged people who had concerns to take part in the engagement events and make their voices heard.