Councillors put aside their allegiances and lined up to put Grantham Hospital boss Dr Suneil Kapadia under fire.
Medical director at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) Dr Kapadia attended today’s meeting of South Kesteven District Council to explain his decision to close Grantham A&E overnight. He was joined by fellow board member and ULHT chief operating officer Mark Brassington.
After Dr Kapadia’s presentation, he was immediately asked to apologise by Coun Ian Selby but none was forthcoming.
Coun Selby said: “When you start chipping away at our hospital and reducing our services you are touching the one thing that this community values more than anything and the jewel in the crown is our hospital. I don’t understand how moving our A&E services in the evening makes us saferin Grantham and especially in our rural areas. I would like to see your risk assessment and the reasons why you have closed our A&E in the evenings. And finally, while you are here – a golden opportunity for you – take the opportunity to apologise to the people of this community for removing those services and leaving us high and dry and treating us like second class citizens. We are going to fight you tooth and nail over this.”
Coun Selby’s comments were followed by a round of applause among councillors.
Dr Kapadia first addressed the council to explain why he decided to close the A&E department from August 17 for three months between 6.30pm and 9am every night.
He said there was a shortage of A&E doctors. ULHT needed 15 consultants across the three A&E departments in Grantham, Boston and Lincoln, but have only 14, 10 of whom are locums. He said ideally there also needed to be 28 middle grade doctors but there were only 12 which he described as “particularly concerning”.
Dr Kapadia said closing Grantham A&E was the “safest option”. He said fewer people on average attended Grantham A&E compared to Boston and Lincoln. Since the closure of Grantham A&E, an average of four patients were going to Lincoln from the Grantham postcode area every 24 hours, two of them by ambulance.
Dr Kapadia said he could not guarantee Grantham A&E would be fully open by the end of the three-month period. But he said: “ULHT is fully committed to reopening A&E.”
Councillors were told that ULHT spent £15 million a year on locums andf agency staff.
Coun Adam Stokes asked why Grantham was chosen to be the department closed.
Dr Kapadia said Grantham was unable to deal with all eventualities, unlike Lincoln and Boston.
Coun Phil Dilks asked Dr Kapadia if he could assure the meeting that nobody would die as a result of the closure when there was a ‘golden hour’ for getting seriously ill or injured patients to hospital.
Dr Kapadia said seriously ill patients are taken to major trauma centres like Lincoln where they can get the expert treatment they need. He said, as a result, survival rates are now higher.
Coun Ray Wootten tabled a motion at council which was supported by all 43 councillors present.
The motion, which was seconded by Coun Charmaine Morgan, said: “That this council understands the staffing shortages throughout health and care services in Lincolnshire and the decision to temporarily close emergency services at Grantham Hospital if patient safety is at risk. However, this council urges United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust to re-instate those services at the hospital at the earliest opportunity.”
Afterwards, Coun Wootten said: “I would like to thank members of the public who took the time to attend council today to hear the debate and to my fellow councillors for their support with this campaign.”
The same motion was fully supported by county councillors last week.
During yesterday’s meeting, former district councillor Bruce Wells unfurled a ‘Save Our A&E’ banner before he walked out of the meeting.
Afterwards, he said of Dr Kapadia: “He has been telling half truths and that’s how it has been all along. How many more people have to die before the message gets across?”
Protester Vera Horstead said after the meeting: “They are all out to close Grantham Hospital down, but not while we are here. We will never give up.”