United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust board has today (Tuesday) announced opening hours of Grantham A&E unit will remain 8am to 6.30pm, seven days a week after a review found enough staff have still not been recruited to address shortages.
In August 2016, ULHT took the decision to temporarily not open Grantham A&E at nights due to a severe shortage of middle grade doctors at Lincoln and Boston A&Es require the staff at Grantham to plug the gaps.
Since August 17, 2016, Grantham A&E has been open from 9am to 6.30pm, seven days a week and 8am to 6.30pm since March 2017. This will be reviewed again in three months’ time.
The Trust claims reducing the opening hours of Grantham A&E has allowed it to provide better patient care in Lincoln - where the most serious cases from across the county go to. The Trust says it is affected by a national shortage of A&E doctors, overly reliant on short and long term agency doctors to fill staff rotas.
Though not ideal, this was seen as the safest option for the provision of emergency care.
Dr Neill Hepburn, interim medical director at ULHT says: “We understand the frustrations and concerns of Grantham people and that they want A&E to be open 24/7 but we will only do this once we can safely staff all our A&Es at least eight weeks into the future. We are fully committed to opening A&E but only when it is safe to do so.”
He added: “Although our doctor numbers are higher than in August, we still have 18.6 middle grades for all our A&Es at Lincoln, Pilgrim and Grantham which is below the required number of 21 to have all three departments open 24/7. Before we can reopen Grantham A&E, we have agreed with our commissioners and our regulators, the minimum number required of 21 for all three departments open 24/7 consistently and safely. Even if we had 21 doctors, this is still below our ideal number of 28.”
ULHT reviewed the opening hours of Grantham A&E at today’s board meeting and considered the views of the most senior consultants, A&E medical and nursing staff, stakeholders and the public. The Trust insists its data shows its healthcare system is still coping with the overnight closure of Grantham A&E and that “on the whole the impact has been small in the number of attendances and admissions at other A&Es”.
The Trust’s recruitment drive will continue, advertising in the UK and abroad and working with UK and international recruitment agencies to recruit enough doctors.