Grantham Hospital A&E unit is to remain closed overnight for another three months, meaning it will have been closed during the night for a year in August.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust board announced today that the opening hours of Grantham A&E will remain 8am to 6.30pm, seven days a week.
In August 2016, ULHT made the decision to temporarily change the opening hours at Grantham A&E due to a severe shortage of middle grade doctors at Lincoln and Boston A&Es. Since August 17 2016, Grantham A&E has been open from 9am to 6.30pm, seven days a week and 8am to 6.30pm since March 2017. This will be reviewed again in three months’ time.
The trust says reducing the opening hours of Grantham A&E has allowed it to provide better patient care in Lincoln – where the most serious cases from across the county go to. There is a national shortage of A&E doctors, and ULHT is very much affected by this. It says it is overly reliant on short and long-term agency doctors to fill staff rotas and, though not ideal, this was the safest option for the provision of emergency care for the people of Lincolnshire including those who live in the Grantham and district area.
But local campaigners have slammed the decision. Ward councillor Ray Wootten said: “I am disappointed. They are not listening to the public. I want A&E reopened as soon as possible or at least its hours extended.”
Melissa Darcey, of Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, said on Facebook: “I am in Leeds today at the general infirmary but have been informed that ULHT have decided that Grantham A&E will remain shut for another three months meaning that Grantham will have been left without an A&E at night for a whole year!!
“This is not acceptable! We need 24-hour life-saving A&E and we need it now. Three months was long enough and now that we are approaching a year - when are people going to wake up and get angry? People have died, and will continue to die!
“I will be having various talks about ideas on what we can do to mark the year anniversary of the night-time closure of OUR A&E AT GRANTHAM! Any suggestions - will be greatly appreciated!!”
Dr Neill Hepburn, interim medical director at ULHT said: “We understand the frustrations and concerns of Grantham people and that they want A&E to be open 24/7 but we will only do this once we can safely staff all our A&Es at least eight weeks into the future. We are fully committed to opening A&E but only when it is safe to do so.
“Although our doctor numbers are higher than in August, we still have 18.6 middle grades for all our A&Es at Lincoln, Pilgrim and Grantham which is below the required number of 21 to have all three departments open 24/7. Before we can reopen Grantham A&E, we have agreed with our commissioners and our regulators, the minimum number required of 21 for all three departments open 24/7 consistently and safely. Even if we had 21 doctors, this is still below our ideal number of 28.”
ULHT reviewed the opening hours of Grantham A&E at its board meeting in May and considered the views of the most senior consultants, A&E medical and nursing staff, stakeholders and the public. It says its own data shows that the healthcare system is still coping with the overnight closure of Grantham A&E and that on the whole the impact has been small in the number of attendances and admissions at other A&Es.
The trust also says its recruitment drive will continue. It is still advertising in the UK and abroad and is working with UK and international recruitment agencies to ensure it recruits enough doctors.
Hospital emergency departments are staffed by a combination of consultants, middle grade doctors (or registrars), doctors in training, A&E nurses and emergency care practitioners.