The Accident and Emergency department at Grantham Hospital will continue to remain closed overnight until February, despite intense pressure from campaigners and residents for it to be reopened.
As previously reported, the trust made the unprecedented decision in August to slash opening hours at the town’s A&E from only 9am to 6.30pm.
The decision means that the A&E department is closed more than it is open.
The closure was only intended to last for three months, but has now been extended until at least February by the trust at a meeting held in Boston on November 1.
Trust bosses have said that they remain committed to the A&E fully opening, but only when it is safe to do so.
The decision will need to be approved by NHS Improvement on November 11 and ULHT has said it will review the closure on a monthly basis.
An average of eight extra patients a day from the Grantham and district area are attending Lincoln and Pilgrim A&Es since the changes.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “There has been no increase in the numbers attending the GP out of hours service at Grantham Hospital.
“Two extra people a day are taken by ambulance to Lincoln via 999 but there has been negligible change in emergency admissions to the emergency departments at ULHT.
“ULHT has the funding for 15 consultants and 28 registrars to cover rotas 24/7 in our three A&Es.
“Currently, we are now down to 14 consultants, of whom 10 are locums, and just 17.6 registrars.
“This is more than in August, but two doctors are leaving the trust in the next few weeks so the position remains challenging.”
Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director at ULHT, added: “Along with Grantham people, ULHT wants to reopen Grantham A&E. But we won’t do this until it is safe to do so.
“Since August we have employed two more long-term locum registrars to Lincoln A&E and Grantham doctors are having a positive impact on Lincoln A&E.
“I’d like to thank the Grantham doctors who have supported Lincoln. They have been brilliant and have helped deliver safe patient care.
“They are providing up to 75 hours a week registrar and up to eight hours a week consultant support at Lincoln.
“But the reality is the service remains fragile and sustaining staffing rotas in the three A&Es is difficult.
“We didn’t review the decision on our own. We consulted widely with neighbouring trusts, the ambulance service, commissioners and other agencies such as the police, and engaged our staff and the public.
“We recognise the closure is causing worry and stress to local people as a local service is important to the community.
Our own data shows that the healthcare system is coping with the overnight closure of Grantham A&E and that on the whole, there has been minimal impact in the number of attendances and admissions at other A&Es.
Campaigners vow to carry on fighting
The decision will undoubtedly be met with fury by the thousands of passionate campaigners who staged two protest marches in Grantham against the changes.
Jody Clark, from the Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital campaign group, said at the second march on October 29: “We are the district of Grantham and surrounding villages and we pay the same share [of tax] as anybody else, and we are entitled to the same level of service.
“It’s their [ULHT’s] bad management that has caused this issue, yet it’s the people of Grantham and surrounding communities that are suffering for it.”