I remember getting the call. It was early August last year. I had stopped in the Lake District on my way to a family holiday on the west coast of Scotland.
The chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust needed to talk with me urgently.
The trust was suffering from a chronic shortage of A&E doctors across its three sites, he said.
In order to keep the larger A&E departments in Lincoln and Boston open, they had concluded that they needed to shut Grantham at nights. I was appalled.
In all of their communications about the decision to close Grantham A&E at nights, the trust has been very clear about a few things.
First, that the closure is temporary and that the they are committed to reopening A&E 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as soon as it is safe to do so.
Second, that they are doing everything they can to recruit new doctors.
Third, that they need a minimum of 21 doctors across the three sites, before they can safely operate A&E at Grantham 24/7.
At a meeting 10 days ago, the trust’s chief executive told me that the trust now had the required number of doctors.
He explained that some of them are locums and could leave at any time without much notice.
But he also said that they were talking to them to establish their longer-term intentions.
This is a matter of principle – and trust. ULHT is contracted to provide a 24/7 A&E at Grantham Hospital.
Staff shortages made it temporarily unsafe for them to do so. Those staff shortages have now been remedied. So the service should re-open as before.
Healthcare is always changing.
Needs change and so do technologies and safety standards.
If the board of ULHT wants the people of Grantham to listen to arguments about future changes with an open mind, they need to follow through on the commitments they have made and re-open Grantham A&E at nights now.