An on-line petition calling for an end to the downgrading of A&E at Grantham has attracted more than 1,000 signatures on its first day.
The petition has been set up by Coun Charmaine Morgan, chairman of SOS Grantham Hospital. She said: “I have had a lot of supportive emails. I’m aiming for 21,000 signatures to send the clear message about how much the unit means to us all.”
This week hospital bosses revealed that a proposal to downgrade A&E at Grantham to an urgent care centre is likely to go out to public consultation later this year as part of a package of changes proposed for Lincolnshire put together by Lincolnshire Health and Care.
Dr Sunil Kapadia, Medical Director of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said that people would see little change at Grantham Hospital if A&E was downgraded because emergency cases are now sent to Lincoln, Boston and other hospitals. He agreed Grantham A&E was essentially operating as an urgent care centre, but more centralised specialist units meant patients were receiving a better standard of care.
Grantham district councillor Ray Wootten said he will be meeting the new chairman of ULHT, Dean Fathers, on Tuesday, and members of the hospitals trust on Wednesday when their plans for the future will be spelled out in more detail.
But Coun Wootten said he did not think now was the time for people to be asked their views. He said the public should be asked when the consultation starts, probably in October.
Coun Morgan is calling on people to help start a campaign to keep an A&E department at Grantham. If anyone would like to help they can contact Coun Morgan on 07429 334260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Coun Morgan said: “The news that Grantham A&E is to be downgraded to an urgent care unit is hugely concerning. Our NHS staff do a fantastic job on the front line delivering the best care they can in increasingly challenging circumstances.
“The ULHT decision demonstrates that, despite serious issues at Lincoln Hospital worsening, the ULHT board is determined to go against the wishes of local people in South Lincolnshire and continue its centralisation plans, even though the mainline railway and A1 carry thousands of travellers at high speed daily through our county every day and the population supported by Grantham Hospital is approximately 65,000.
“The justification used by the trust is that it is safer and better for patients to travel where they can get specialist help. Whilst this is true for some cases, there has been an increase in death rates at Lincoln Hospital, which are now higher than they were before the Keogh Report in 2010. The trust cannot guarantee better care for patients at Lincoln, despite the assurances being made. Lincoln Hospital staff are under huge pressure to cope with an increasing workload. This will only worsen as acute services at Grantham and Boston are centralised. The decision to move some specialist care units out of Lincoln reflects the restriction in space at the hospital which is another issue.
“Independent research indicates for every additional kilometre travelled critically ill patients have a 1% higher likelihood of mortality. This risk is worsened for people suffering from anaphylactic shock and severe breathing problems, including severe asthmatic attacks. For these patients urgent non-specialised medical attention is needed. Emas and Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue are seeing increased emergency calls but face budget cuts. Centralisation of acute services also puts huge pressure on emergency ambulance crews and First Responders forced to travel further.
“The NHS plays a vital role supporting everyone regardless of ability to pay. Historic ULHT centralisation proposals make it harder for those living on the edge of Lincolnshire to access A&E services, especially on low incomes or unable to drive. The new proposals make the situation worse. Many local people are now turning to Nottinham, Peterborough and Leicester hospitals for care. Nottingham QMC is closer to Grantham and has better transport links than Lincoln hospital.
“The EMAS response to my freedom of information requests in 2015 for death in transit stats, and availabilty of EMAS resources to support these changes, showed there is no current detailed monitoring of the impact of earlier decisions to reduce Grantham A&E services.
“The changes to Grantham A&E are only part of the picture. ULHT is struggling to cope with staff retention and increasing elderly patient numbers (some with more complex issues). Future plans depend on short hospital stays and the presence of nursing care homes. Short hospital stays are not always to the benefit of the patient especially when local authority funding is inadequate to properly support care in the community. More convalescent nursing homes would be welcome. Current funding does not allow this.
“ULHT is £46m in debt now caused by the underfunding of local health services by the government and poor management resulting in unacceptably high dependency on costly locum consultants and agency staff. A £3m scheme to recruit Eastern European nurses resulted in the majority of the nurses leaving Lincolnshire. This brings into question the terms and conditions of employment contracts being used. Staff report a lack of implementation of flexible hours making it harder for NHS staff with families to work. Experienced nurses offering to come back were told they would have to pay £1,000 and more to requalify.
“setting aside local issues there is a conflict of interest undermining our NHS. Under David Cameron’s watch 13,000 NHS beds have been lost, and there had been an incease in NHS services supporting private health patients and private firms being contracted to take on NHS work. The Health and Social Care Act 2010 and ttip proposals, promoted by this government in europe, strenghthens the position of public healthcare providers. research into party political funding and private funding of peers and mps showed that in 2014 63 parliamentarians were funded directly or indirectly by private healthcare firms. Whilst some dependency on the private sector is inevitable, the ability for parliamentarians to make or influence policy decisions whilst holding a potential conflict of interest (not acceptable in local government) is hugely concerning.
“Now the changes at Grantham Hospital have been announced, local people need to let our voice be heard. Please respond to any formal consultation and to join in local campaign acivity being planned. Details will follow shortly.”