This week, Radio Lincolnshire are holding live debates across the county about our healthcare and the upcoming Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for our NHS services.
This week, I was able to attend the first debate in Grantham on behalf of our MP Nick Boles, and to put some question to the clinicians involved in the STP process. It’s great that these proposals are finally being heard in public after years of slow progress behind closed doors, and over the course of this year it’s important that people engage with the discussion and have their say on the plans.
The first part of the debate focussed on Grantham A&E, where obviously we still have overnight closures to contend with too. We were all disappointed that the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust chose not to fully re-open at their board meeting in February, but only to extend the hours in the morning.
Local campaign groups and councillors were present at the debate to press this issue and raise concerns for the long-term future of the A&E on that site.
What is abundantly clear is that there are an awful lot of people working to make sure our voices are heard in this process, and there is no question of changes being allowed to happen without scrutiny, or without the trust having to answer the tough questions.
The further along the process we go the more it seems like the preferred plan for Grantham and the surrounding villages that use the services there will be to keep an A&E open and available for residents on that site for the foreseeable future. It is likely to come with an additional ‘urgent care centre’ alongside it, which would allow staff to sift out those patients who don’t actually need emergency treatment (up to 40 per cent of patients) and send them next door to treat them separately and more efficiently, also freeing up space and reducing waiting times for the most urgent cases in A&E. In theory, that could be a good option, though the details are yet to be laid out fully.
We are all clear that we will not accept a ‘downgrade’ of services at Grantham A&E, and that we need to have senior medical staff on site who can treat the same level of problems and conditions that they do now.
This will become more important than ever as the town grows over the coming years. It’s obvious to most though, I think, that how our services should run in the future is a vital discussion that we need to have, to secure the very best support and facilities for local people and cope with rising demand.
I hope that everyone will have their say in the STP consultation when the time comes this summer.