Health bosses are looking to put an improved service in place for Sleaford area emergency patients in time for this winter as an improvement on the current overnight closure of A&E at Grantham Hospital.
The service has been closed at nights for 13 months since United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust announced it did not have enough doctors to staff all three A&E departments in the county 24 hours a day due to a nationwide shortage of doctors. Instead it transferred staff to cover night shifts at the busier A&Es in Boston and Lincoln, meaning Sleaford patients have been denied their closest A&E each night.
Since then the trust has been working on new ways to recruit more doctors from this country and abroad.
With the high pressure winter months approaching, South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which represents GPs in the area, says it has been working closely with United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) and Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) to explore how in the short-term they can realistically enhance current services at Grantham A&E, ahead of winter.
A CCG spokesman said they will engage with people as these plans take shape, saying discussions have been ‘positive’, adding: “We are also working together to look at longer-term options. Once this work is complete it will form a key part of a public consultation next year.”
South West Lincolnshire CCG held its Annual Public Meeting on Tuesday (September 19), during which issues including the future of Grantham A&E were discussed.
Specifically, the CCG is working with ULHT and LCHS to explore how for this coming winter they can enhance current services at Grantham A&E, as well as looking at a long-term solution.
Dr Dave Baker, GP and acting chairman of South West Lincolnshire CCG, said: “As a local GP and resident I am encouraged by the way in which discussions are going. We emphasised at our Annual Public Meeting that the CCG remains totally committed to sharing the detail of our plans for Grantham A&E, both for the short and long-term, and engaging with local people as soon as possible.
“As soon as we are able to do so we will put our plans into the public domain and, as part of this, we intend to share our thoughts about what a positive option for Grantham A&E in the long-term looks like, and this will form a key part of a public consultation.”
Melissa Darcy of Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital campaign group told The Standard: “It’s all very confusing - as it has been over the last 13 months with contradicting statements from different authorities.
“I am not going to dispute that if there is an open door policy at the A&E, that 24-hour urgent care is not better than it is now as that would be silly.
“As a single parent of three children, if I could access it overnight and if I could walk in with my children, then I wouldn’t dispute it is a better situation. The problem is, we have been fed misleading statements since day one.”
She said: “No one from the health authority is giving us accurate information on what we would see once we go through the door.
“Would we see a GP, nurse practitioner or someone who can treat us in emergency situations? We’re constantly told different things from different authorities.
“What is that service? Is it A&E like before where you could go in an emergency situation or where you can go for minor injuries? The problem we’re facing is we can’t get that answer.”
Ms Darcy concluded: “For me, as a campaigner and a mother, that part really annoys me as no one is being honest with us.”