Grantham’s A&E department will be open an hour earlier from Monday.
The United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) suggested last month that it may extend opening hours, and this was confirmed yesterday (Thursday).
The emergency unit will be open between 8am and 6.30pm daily.
The trust took the decision to close the unit on August 17 last year, due to staff shortages at its Lincoln and Boston hospitals. It led to a public outcry. Countless protests, weekly vigils and three marches through the town followed.
Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director at ULHT, said: “We understand that Grantham people want A&E to be open 24/7 but we are unable to do this until we are confident that we can safely staff all of our A&Es at least eight weeks into the future. We remain committed to getting A&E open 24/7 but only when it is safe to do so.
“We are making progress with recruitment. We currently have 17.6 middle grades for all our A&Es at Lincoln, Pilgrim and Grantham. Although the numbers are higher than in August, they are still below the required number of 21 to have all three departments open 24/7. We agreed on the threshold of having a minimum of 21 middle grade doctors before we reopen Grantham A&E with our commissioners and our regulators, as the level required for us to staff three A&E rotas 24/7 consistently and safely. Even if we had 21 doctors, this is still below our ideal number of 28.”
A statement from the trust read: “There is a national shortage of A&E doctors, and ULHT is very much affected by this. We are overly reliant on short and long term agency doctors to fill staff rotas.
“Reducing the opening hours of Grantham A&E has allowed us to provide better patient care in Lincoln – where the most serious cases from across the county go to. 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.
“ULHT reviewed the opening hours of Grantham A&E at its board meeting in February and considered the views of the most senior consultants, A&E medical and nursing staff, stakeholders and the public in extending the hours.
“Our 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.
“Our recruitment drive will continue. We are still advertising in the UK and abroad and are working with UK and international recruitment agencies to ensure we recruit enough doctors. We will review the opening hours at our Board meeting in May.”
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