A proposal to downgrade the A&E department at Grantham Hospital to an urgent care centre has been branded a ‘disgrace’ and ‘hugely concerning’.
The proposal is being put forward by Lincolnshire Health and Care which is looking into major changes in which healthcare in the county is run. These changes will be proposed later this year as part of a public consultation.
The downgrading of the A&E was condemned today by local councillors following a meeting on Wednesday in which the proposals were outlined. United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) says more serious emergencies are already taken to other hospitals including Lincoln and Boston.
Coun Ray Wootten, whose ward includes the hospital, said: “I think the downgrading of our A&E is a disgrace. I fear for the future of Grantham Hospital and I think this is just one stage on the path to reducing services further for the people of Grantham.”
Con Wootten said he believed money was a major motivation for the proposal to downgrade. He said the trust has a deficit of £56.9 million and that in eight years of attending ULHT board meetings, the deficit had never gone down.
Another Grantham councillor, Charmaine Morgan, who is chairman of SOS Grantham Hospital, said: “The news that Grantham A&E is to be downgraded to an urgent care unit is hugely concerning. Our NHS staff do a fantastic job on the front line delivering the best care they can in increasingly challenging circumstances.
Coun Morgan added: “The ULHT decision demonstrates that, despite serious issues at Lincoln Hospital worsening, the ULHT board is determined to go against the wishes of local people in South Lincolnshire and continue its centralisation plans, even though the mainline railway and A1 carry thousands of travellers at high speed daily through our county every day and the population supported by Grantham Hospital is approximately 65,000.
“The justification used by the trust is that it is safer and better for patients to travel where they can get specialist help. Whilst this is true for some cases, there has been an increase in death rates at Lincoln Hospital, which are now higher than they were before the Keogh Report in 2010. The trust cannot guarantee better care for patients at Lincoln, despite the assurances being made. Lincoln Hospital staff are under huge pressure to cope with an increasing workload. This will only worsen as acute services at Grantham and Boston are centralised. The decision to move some specialist care units out of Lincoln reflects the restriction in space at the hospital which is another issue.”
Coun Morgan said anyone interested in helping with a campaign to save A&E and other services at Grantham Hospital can contact her on 07429 334260 or email email@example.com
Dr Sunil Kapadia, medical director of ULHT, agreed that the A&E department at Grantham is already an urgent care centre in all but name. He said centralised specialist centres, such as the Heart Centre in Lincoln, proved that the system worked providing a better standard of care with better results.
Dr Kapadia said: “There are clear standards set down by Government that are expected from emergency departments and if you cannot meet them then you are an urgent care centre.”
Dr Kapadia said 28,000 went through the ‘front door’ of Grantham Hospital last year but only 4,000 of those actually required A&E.
He said the intent would be to keep an urgent care centre at Grantham open 24 hours a day.