A new year, a new decade and, hopefully for health campaigners, a clearer view of the future – that’s what is expected going forward.
By the end of 2019, it felt like the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Programmes, announced in 2015, had been in the works for a lot longer.
After multiple push-backs and delays caused by elections and other issues, you can be forgiven for thinking of them as similar to the mythical unicorn.
There was a glimmer of hope last year as organisations came together to announce the start of the Healthy Conversations consultation only to be delayed again by the General Election.
Hopefully we’ll see something this year (the grapevine says Summer is a likely target) but there’s a, possibly jaded and cynical, temptation to wait by Loch Ness to see what appears first.
So what do campaigners want to see in the year ahead?
Both Jody Clark, from the Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital Group, and SOS Pilgrim Hospital’s Alison Marriott were eagerly awaiting the above-mentioned consultation.
In Grantham, which is facing more than 1,200 nights of the overnight closure of its accident and emergency department, Jody said they would continue to call for 24-hour walk-in access to the suggested Urgent Treatment Centre.
Those fighting the changes also want it to continue with medical intake and as an orthopaedic centre of excellence.
Thanking the group’s “amazing” supporters, she told Local Democracy Weekly: “We will continue with our aims of getting a new build hospital with A&E services and multi-provider services at one site.
“And continue to take our concerns and push for enhancing our services, to all the providers.
“Our amazing community has not faltered. We know we deserve better services and we will continue to fight for them.”
In Boston, Alison said they would continue to push for “a return to what we had before”.
This includes Pilgrim Hospital’s neonatal unit again accepting babies from a lower age and a reduction in the number transferred to other hospitals both in and out of the county.
“We hope there are no unwelcome surprises about that and also that we will see a guarantee in writing that centralisation of consultant-led maternity to Lincoln is off the table,” she said.
“We also continue to push for the return of trainee children’s doctors officially full-time 24/7 at Pilgrim and we hope that the time limits on stays on children’s ward (PAU) will officially end too, and beds to officially increase.
“We know from parents’ stories that children have been able to stay longer this winter.”
With concrete proposals set to be included in the STP, officials have repeatedly stressed that nothing has been decided and engagement is ongoing, but the news raised concerns.
Meanwhile, the pressure on Lincolnshire’s hospitals continued throughout 2019.
Lincoln A&E saw such an increased demand that Unison warned that the trust is “on its knees” and urged the government to act.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, which oversees the hospitals, remained in special measures following visits from the Care Quality Commission.
It wasn’t all bad though, with the first intake of students to the new Lincoln Medical School – which is hoped to help staff shortages in the long-term. – DANIEL JAINES