Hospital campaigner at the centre of national coverage

Sarah Stock. Pic supplied
Sarah Stock. Pic supplied

A health campaigner - opposed to the overnight closure of Grantham’s A&E - has found herself in the national spotlight.

Sarah Stock, 45, from Billingborough, has been a nurse for 28 years.

To say I was horrified to see my local A&E closed overnight is an understatement

Campaigner Sarah Stock

After being ‘gobsmacked’ by the overnight closure of her local A&E department, at Grantham Hospital, last year she has campaigned for it to be reinstated.

She has now found herself at the heart of coverage as part of investigation by Johnston Press - owner’s of the Sleaford Standard - as we take an in-depth look at NHS Sustainable Transformation Plans, which aim to plug a £22bn gap in funding over the next five years.

She said: “To say I was horrified to see my local A&E closed overnight is an understatement.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2016. I had a bilateral (double) mastectomy in August. When I was sitting in the hospital recovering and feeling extremely ropey after surgery somebody sent me a link to an article saying the A&E department at Grantham was closing overnight. I thought, ‘How can that be? I’ve got to go home with chest drains and I’m going to have no emergency cover overnight.’ I was absolutely gobsmacked. Now I’m angry.

“In Lincolnshire we’ve got Lincoln Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital and Grantham Hospital. Grantham is the closest hospital to where I live - it’s about 13 miles from my house. The next nearest hospital in 23 miles and the next one is 35 miles from where I live.

“I was terrified when I was discharged from hospital, and I’m a nurse. A lot of that fear came from the fact that I know there are post-operative complications at times: you can bleed, your suturing can come open, you might have problems with your chest drain. I’m a professional but I was terrified. I was thinking if I’m scared at 45 as a nurse what are other people feeling? I’ve got three kids - they’re all typical kids; they’ve fallen off pushbikes, trapped their hands in doors, and my nearest A&E is Grantham.

“Lincolnshire hasn’t got the infrastructure or the transport links to support the closure of the A&E at Grantham.”

She added: “From my own personal experience, if I’d have had a post-operative bleed I would have had at least an hour to travel. Over 750,000 people live in Lincolnshire. We’ve only got three main hospitals and they’re trying to push two hospitals into a ‘super hospital’ at Lincoln, which is already overstretched.

“I had to take my 12-year-old son to A&E last week to treat him for what we suspected was appendicitis. It took me just under an hour to get there; he was doubled over in pain in the car with me. My frustration to get through traffic, with him in pain and me trying to drive and keep one eye on him at the same time was very stressful. How are people not going to die as a result of this?

“It is happening everywhere. The Government is working to the same format in every single county.

“We need our local A&E, and the push to close or downgrade one or two out of three hospitals, as per the national directive through the ludicrous ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’, will see not see lives ‘sustained’ but our country ‘transformed’ to Third World health care status.”

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust which runs the site has recently agreed to extend the opening of the A&E by an hour, from 8am to 6.30pm, which is due to come into effect from March 27.

It states the overnight closure came due to a shortage of doctors at Lincoln and Boston A&Es.

In a statement the Trust said: “Reducing the opening hours of Grantham A&E has allowed us to provide better patient care in Lincoln - where the most serious cases from across the county go to. Grantham A&E doctors have provided up to an additional 85 hours of middle grade and consultant support per week at Lincoln. Though not ideal, this was the safest option for the provision of emergency care for the people of Lincolnshire including those who live in the Grantham and district area.”

The Trust said ‘steady progress’ was being made to recruit doctors.