One of the town’s leading hospital consultants is set to take a stand in the general election in a bid to save hospital services and give the people of Grantham an inside voice.
Dr Tariq Mahmood, 58, has worked as a consultant physician and gastroenterologist at Grantham Hospital for the past four years and has witnessed first-hand the effects that the cuts are having among staff and patients. He will be running as an independent parliamentary candidate.
He said: “We are going through hard times and morale is understandably quite low, so my main objective is to [fully] open the hospital again.
“In a town this size, we need to be able to provide safe services around the clock.”
Fears for the future of Grantham Hospital have been growing for many years but were escalated with the nightly closure of the accident and emergency department last August. Since then, there have been many claims including that the critical care unit, which is currently run by consultant anaesthetists, is being run down so that an A&E unit will no longer be viable, despite producing results above the national average. Mortality rates are also better than the national average.
With the population in Grantham predicted to rise to 60,000 by the year 2020, staff are worried about the impact that any further downgrading of services will have.
The cuts have united people across the town and surrounding area, many of whom have taken part in marches in opposition to the A&E closure.
Thousands more have become members of campaign groups protesting against the nightly closure, as well as cuts to services already made, and to oppose any future cuts. Protesters hold weekly vigils outside the hospital.
Dr Mahmood is hoping that his position at the hospital – which is run by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) – will hold him in good stead in the elections.
He added: “I have worked in the NHS for 30 years. I understand it and know how achievable any proposed changes are. Politicians who do not have a medical background can only aspire to make changes, but unless you’ve worked in the NHS, you’ll never know how achievable they are. I am in a good position to advise on any changes that need to be made, implement them and see them through.”
Dr Mahmood is well known around the hospital and is popular among his patients. After coming to Grantham four years ago, he developed a gastroenterology department, capable of treating patients locally instead of having to send them elsewhere.
He said: “We used to only be able to offer very basic treatment and patients had to travel to Nottingham and Lincoln if they needed a more complex procedure. Now we’re able to offer a range of inflammatory bowel disease services. I want the ULHT to realise that the more they invest, the more benefits they will receive.”
Dr Mahmood also leads the hospital audits to ensure ongoing patient safety.
Local people will be at the forefront of Dr Mahmood’s campaign.
He said: “My campaign is very local which is why I’m standing as an independent candidate instead of being aligned with a party. By standing alone, it means that I will always be available to solve local issues instead of getting involved in party politics. I am very confident in presenting myself as an individual and representing the people and not a party.”
If successful, Dr Mahmood would hope to revive the town centre to its former glory by boosting both business and tourist opportunities. He said: “Grantham is an affluent town and has produced many people of excellence over time. It also boasts lots of places of interest, including Belton House and Belvoir Castle. However, over recent years, it seems to have lost its passion and its good name. It’s time we got it back. I want to encourage new businesses to start investing in Grantham and tourists to start visiting again.”
The local farming community is also top of Dr Mahmood’s campaign agenda.
He said: “We should be proud to be part of the biggest agricultural county in the country, which makes it even more important for us to look after our farming community. After Brexit, our local farmers must not lose the agricltural subsidy they currently get from Europe. We will all be affected if this happens, therefore I will work to get this subsidy from the UK government.”
Dr Mahmood’s wife also works as a consultant, based in London, and they have three grown-up children, all of whom are practising doctors or training.
The family are no strangers of making their voices heard. Only last Friday, their daughter, 29-year-old Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, became the MasterChef 2017 champion, becoming the 13th amateur cook to claim the title. She has vowed to help her dad with his campaign.
Dr Mahmood added: “I’ve received so much support from my family, patients and colleagues, all of whom have been encouraging me to do this for some time. I’ve just decided that now is the right time to try and make a difference.”
To contact Dr Mahmood, send an email to drmahmood email@example.com
** Dr Mahmood is one of six candidates standing for the Grantham and Stamford constituency. Also standing is Nick Boles (Conservative), Barrie Fairbairn (Labour), Anita Hill (Liberal Democrat), Marietta King (UKIP) and Rebecca Thackray (Green).