Lincolnshire

Column: Post Brexit we can plan for our health service needs

This story is over

The cuts in emergency medical care at Grantham & District Hospital have shocked the whole community.

There are now no emergency provisions during the evenings and nights in Grantham for at least three months because there are not enough doctors to deliver 24-hour care.

By my reckoning, up to 10,000 people could be affected by this cut.

Accident and emergency departments are under severe strain all over the country but especially so in Lincolnshire which has seen high levels of immigration – and staff are stretched beyond the limit simply due to this drastic and rapid increase in the demands place upon them.

Of course, the closure has seen communities pull together to protest – your own publication has featured these marches and petitions as people mobilise themselves to take action.

This just goes to show how many people care and how many people are prepared to fight to save services they see as vital in their communities.

I do understand the great efforts United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust must have gone to while trying to deal with staff shortages, and while I can see why they took this drastic step of closing the Grantham Hospital accident and emergency unit at night, it is obviously not desirable.

But I do see the problem with demand causing issues which go beyond the accident and emergency unit themselves.

The situation is not helped by GP shortages and over-subscription at GP surgeries, (again, often immigration-led), leading to long waiting times for non-emergency appointments at local surgeries.

When people have to wait several weeks before being able to see a GP they sometimes go to an accident and emergency unit just to avoid the delay.

Or they may ignore a problem which then ends up being an entirely avoidable emergency. Both situations increase accident and emergency demands.

The strain in the system leads to burn-out of both hospital staff and GPs, which, as the trust in Lincolnshire has shown, is not always solvable through investment and incentives.

The trust has done its best to get more staff in place but just cannot attract or retain sufficient numbers of adequately trained emergency medicine specialised doctors.

One of your latest stories illustrates the steps it is trying to take.

It is advertising a series of new posts for doctors who wish to take on further qualifications.

The £37,547 – £70,018 salary roles will see doctors, while working in accident and emergency departments, given time off each week to study part-time and the course fees will be paid for by the trust.

Of course, post-Brexit, we will be able to control immigration numbers and therefore plan and secure health provision to an acceptable level.

And we will also have the money to invest further in the NHS – in the UKIP 2015 manifesto we pledged to invest billions in the NHS, funded by the savings made by leaving the EU – we call upon the government to do the same.