Campaigners are urging local residents to should their support by bombarding the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust board with messages demanding that Grantham A&E department is reopened at nights.
The call from SOS Grantham Hospital and Fighting4Life Lincolnshire comes ahead of a meeting of the hospital Trust board tomorrow morning (Friday) at its offices in The Reservation, Sleaford, to consider recommendations from NHS Improvement that it does not feel it is safe to open at nights at this time, despite recruiting more doctors, due to volatile staffing levels.
NHS Improvement also backs recommendations from an independent review by the East of England Clinical Senate which advised that the future of Grantham A&E should be considered as part of the overall Sustainability and Tranformation Plan to rethink acute hospital and GP services in the county, suggesting that Grantham be downgraded to an Urgent Care Centre.
There is even greater pressure on the Trust board as it is currently in special measures after the Care Quality Commission judged it as requiring improvement in both clinical and financial inspections.
Campaigners to get Grantham A&E reopened at nights are urging people to write to the trust board of ULHT today to tell them to defer the decision on whether to reopen until their January board meeting - this gives Lincolnshire’s Health Scrutiny Commitee and the campaign groups time to scrutinise these recommendations to keep the A&E shut overnight and furthermore downgrade the service to an urgent care centre.
Campaigners argue that closing the A&E at nights leaves 120,000 people in the hospital catchment area with up to an hour’s journey to their next nearest A&E unit. According to ULHT the closure is due to a shortage of staff in the A&E units across the three hospital sites at Grantham, Lincoln and Boston which has led to safety concerns.
Counr Charmaine Morgan, chairman of SOS Grantham Hospital, who have been campaigning to save Grantham Hospital services since 2006, said: “NHS Improvement have known since August 2016 what plans ULHT had made for recruitment and even approved the night closure. It is disgraceful that NHS Improvement (NHSi) are arguing, now that the ULHT recruitment target has been met, that the recruitment plans being worked to for a year were inadequate. The NHS Improvement interference now, is most unwelcome.
“Whilst correspondence from NHSi implies that the decision to re-open the A&E unit at night rests with ULHT, in practise they will be under huge pressure to keep the unit closed at night, because of the recommendations of the Clinical Senate. We believe there are fundamental issues with the Senate’s statement. It does not reflect important new evidence available regarding the role played by Grantham Hospital A&E unit. saving lives. Evidence was submitted by SOS Grantham Hospital but the timescale provided to the Senate was so short they did not consult with local patient groups to our knowledge, and certainly not with local campaigners.”
Coun Morgan says SOSGH sent a Freedom of Information Request to ULHT to establish what medical conditions were treated at the A&E unit prior to night closure, and how many patients were admitted into Grantham Hospital through the A&E unit. The result has provided important evidence dispelling the ‘myth’ that Grantham Hospital A&E does not treat seriously ill patients.
She says that the new evidence shows that, in fact, conditions including breathing difficulties, serious bleeding, heart failure and sepsis have been treated with more than 6,700 critically ill people being admitted into hospital in 2015/16 from the A&E unit.
The number of patients admitted is so high that there is a concern ‘a reduction in A&E hours, or the downgrade of Grantham Hospital A&E to an Urgent Care Centre will have a detrimental impact on the future viability of key staff and other hospital departments, especially the Emergency Aassessment Unit and Ward 1.’ She said that it appears we are fighting for the future of our hospital too.
The campaign statement continues: “Given paramedics are only required to attempt to save life for 20 minutes if resuscitation is required it is not acceptable to expect people in the Grantham Hospital catchment area to travel an hour to their next nearest A&E. It is not ‘safer’ for them to do so.
“By our estimate approximately six patients per night may need critical care. ULHT state no patients have been affected by the night closure over a year. This statement does not tally with the statistical evidence available in the preceeding months. It is highly likely the issue is down to the fragmented approach used to report the patient experience which is more about gathering performance stats for hospital departments than the end to end experience. For example, a patient dying at home because they felt unable to travel, or too worried about wasting time would not appear on ULHT stats but they may have died as a result of the lack of local A&E facility regardless.”
In addition to sharing evidence with ULHT, NHSi and the East of England Senate, Coun Morgan copied details of their report to Coun Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council and subsequently discussed the case with Lincolnshire County Councillor Carl Macey who is chairman of the county council’s Health Scrutiny Committee. The Health Scrutiny Committee is to meet on Wednesday January 20 when they will discuss the matter further, despite the decision due to be taken ahead of that by ULHT.
LCC Health Scrutiny have asked for representation from ULHT, NHSi and the Senate. The committee has the authority to refer the case to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, provided new evidence is available. SOS Grantham Hospital have requested to speak, as have Fighting for Life Lincolnshires.
Coun Morgan suggested that evidence obtained through the FOI request and other evidence may be used to re-submit their case to the Health Secretary.
She said: “A recent letter from Jeremy Hunt’s department indicates that his office believe our A&E unit is a level 3 Urgent Care Centre. This is hugely concerning given Jeremy Hunt has met a number of campaigners, including Nick Boles MP. Jeremy Hunt took six months to examine our case and therefore at the very least he, and his department officers, should know what medical conditions are treated at our hospital A&E unit.
“Furthermore, on December 12 South Kesteven District Council approved plans for the new Rioja King 31 retail park on the southside of Grantham. This park may bring up to 3.5million more people per year into the Grantham area and was not a consideration of the night closure, to our knowledge.”
The LCC Health Scrutiny committee are also seeking ways to get Grantham and District A&E re-openend at night.
ULHT have been sent a request by Coun Macey to defer their decision regarding the re-opening of Grantham Hospital A&E at night until after they have met with the LCC Health Scrutiny Committee, in January.
Coun Morgan said: “Until we hear further we must assume that the decision will be made at the ULHT board meeting this Friday at 9.15am in The Conference Room, The Reservation, Sleaford, NG34 7BY.”
SOS Grantham Hospital are calling upon people in the Grantham and District hospital catchment area to join other hospital campaigners and support Grantham Hospital A&E by attending the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust Board, which is open to the public.
Coun Morgan said: “We know it is short notice but is vital at this critical time that ULHT are aware of the importance of their decision to people across the Grantham, Melton Mowbray, Newark and Sleaford communities. All are reliant on Grantham Hospital A&E, which sits on the edge of the Lincolnshire boundary and also covers parts of Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Leicestershire on the A1 corridor.
“Members of the public may not speak at the meeting but questions may be submitted in advance by lunch time the day before. Public questions are read out, along with answers at the beginning of the ULHT board meeting.”
Anyone needing a lift or is able to provide a lift may contact Coun Morgan on 07398 156296 with full contact details and address, or, email firstname.lastname@example.org.