Councillors and protesters have expressed their anger and disgust following this morning’s decision to keep Grantham A&E closed at night.
The decision was made by the board of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust in Sleaford despite announcing previously that it was in favour of re-opening the unit 24 hours a day,
Since then, a safety review conducted by the East of England Clinical Senate and commissioned by NHS Improvement recommended that the department is not reopened overnight.
Today’s announcement was met with strong reactions from both councillors and protesters from the hospital campaign groups who attended the meeting and called the decision ‘a disgrace’ and said it was ‘putting people’s lives at risk’.
Coun Ian Selby said: “We feel so let down by the board. I am absolutely gutted for the people of Grantham. They have kept moving the goalposts all along and now this - a second Christmas without an A&E. We are being treated like second class citizens. It is difficult to put into words.”
Coun Ray Wootten added: “The decision by the board to ignore council representatives, campaign groups and the communities views is an absolute disgrace. It is no wonder that feelings were running high and that the chairman threatened to close the meeting on three occasions. The campaign to get Grantham Hospital re-open 24/7 continues.”
Coun Charmaine Morgan went to walk out of the meeting after calling it a ‘sham’. She said: “I am swinging between being furious and wanting to cry. Lives are literally on the line over this decision. We are dealing with people who cannot simply afford a delay of more than 30 minutes in care. This decision is just the tip of the iceberg. It is an insult to the people of Grantham and the area. They made the decision in a week and have used people who are not local to Grantham. They did not consult with the public. It is a disgrace. We now need to come together to organise some crowdfunding to raise £3,000 which is what it will cost to hire an independent legal advisor to look at all the options we now have available to us.”
A tearful but defiant Melissa Darcey, of Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire (F4LL), said she felt disgusted.
She said: “We feel very disheartened with today’s decision and I am disgusted but this is not the end, if anything it is just the beginning. Fighting for Life Lincolnshire will be working with SOS Grantham Hospital in the coming months.”
F4LL campaigner Sarah Stock is ‘furious’ at the decision. She said: “I am furious but not surprised. The closure will continue to have a lasting impact as it has since it was closed overnight last year. The decision is a prime example of geographical inequalities.”
Margot Parker, MEP for the East Midlands and UKIP deputy leader, added: “This decision is very sad and worrying for the people who need that unit and I fear it will be putting people’s lives at risk.”
Dr Neill Hepburn, medical director of ULHT, said: “It is a very emotive issue and feelings are running very high. We were orginally asked to defer the decision while NHSi commissioned a review.
“As a result, the review made recommendations including that the panel are not in support of reopening the Grantham A&E 24 hours a day, to consider renaming the department, to work towards becoming a single A&E team and to work at pace to develop a system approach to urgent care.
“Based on the review from expert opinions and supported by advice from our regulator, we have an obligation to follow the recommendations and take the advice. The situation is quite clear and we have no option. There will be no change to the opening hours of Grantham A&E.”