County council health scrutiny committee refers continued overnight closure of Grantham A&E to the Secretary of State for second time

County Hall - Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln. EMN-180117-172026001
County Hall - Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln. EMN-180117-172026001

Lincolnshire’s Health Scrutiny Committee has unanimously voted to refer the latest decision by United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (ULHT) for Grantham A&E to remain closed overnight, to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

On December 15, ULHT’s board met in Sleaford and considered whether or not to re-open the A&E unit, having recruited the number of middle grade doctors it had previously said was needed for this to happen. However ULHT accepted a report from the East of England Clinical senate and decided not to re-open the unit prompting angry outbursts from campaigners seeking to protect the service.

Coun Carl Macey, chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee for Lincolnshire, said: “We believe that this decision taken by ULHT not to re-open Grantham A&E overnight, was not only incorrect, but incorrectly taken.

“Having previously made assurances to the committee about the staffing threshold for re-opening, ULHT seem to have changed their plans for the future of the unit. Their recent decision not to re-open Grantham A&E overnight represents a ‘substantial variation’ and an acceptance that the goalposts have moved. We believe this should have been scrutinised by both the committee and the public, before the decision was made and in fact we wrote to ULHT after our last meeting to request this.”

The referral follows a previous referral to the Secretary of State by the committee in November 2016. This was looked at by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), who concluded that although a full review was not necessary, the closure of the A&E could no longer be considered ‘temporary’ and called for an open and honest appraisal of future options along with public engagement and consultation.

Coun Macey added: “The IRP commented previously that NHS organisations in Lincolnshire should be more open with the public about the options for the A&E and still there has been no meaningful public involvement.

“This also applies to all aspects of Lincolnshire’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which the committee continue to express their frustrations about. We’d like to see options out to public consultation as soon as possible.

“The IRP also called for ‘local resolution’ so it’s disappointing to see central intervention by NHS Improvement and the East of England Clinical Senate, now holding local health bosses to ransom.

“We have given our promise to the people of Grantham and Lincolnshire that we will not let this issue drop. Raising this with the Secretary of State again demonstrates our commitment to getting the much-needed overnight service back for our residents.”