The United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust board has officially agreed to extend the overnight closure of Grantham A&E for at least three more months.
As reported previously, the trust decided controversially to temporarily close the emergency department at Grantham hospital overnight due to a severe shortage of middle grade doctors at Lincoln and Boston A&Es.
In the time since the decision was made in August 2016, the department’s opening times have been extended by just one hour a day from March.
A report considered by the trust’s board on Tuesday, May 9 recommended that the current A&E opening times of 8am to 6.30pm are maintained and that, despite recruitment drives, staffing numbers are still below safe levels.
This was agreed and will be reviewed again in three months time, totalling one year since the temporary closure was initially approved.
The trust states the night time closure has allowed them to provide better patient care in Lincoln – ‘where the most serious cases from across the county go to’.
The trust added: ‘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.’
Dr Neill Hepburn, interim medical director at ULHT said: “We understand the frustrations and concerns of Grantham people and that they want A&E to be open 24/7 but we will only do this once we can safely staff all our A&Es at least eight weeks into the future.
“We are fully committed to opening A&E but only when it is safe to do so.
“Although our doctor numbers are higher than in August, we still have 18.6 middle grades for all our A&Es at Lincoln, Pilgrim and Grantham which is below the required number of 21 to have all three departments open 24/7.
“Before we can reopen Grantham A&E, we have agreed with our commissioners and our regulators, the minimum number required of 21 for all three departments open 24/7 consistently and safely. Even if we had 21 doctors, this is still below our ideal number of 28.”