United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) will consider whether to reopen Grantham A&E 24 hours a day over the winter at a meeting next week.
This decision, which will be discussed on Tuesday, November 7, will then be subject to NHS Improvement approval as part of its A&E staffing review which will be carried out over the next month.
ULHT has said it has always remained committed to fully reopening the A&E as soon as it is safe to do so, and over the past year has been working to recruit and retain doctors.
More permanent, locum and agency middle grade doctors have been secured, increasing ULHT numbers to 22 – slightly above the minimum of 21 middle grade doctors that are needed to safely staff the three A&Es.
Although this takes the trust over the minimum threshold, staffing rotas in the long-term still remain ‘very challenging’.
Neill Hepburn, Medical Director for United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust said: “The staffing situation is volatile and constantly changing as we are still very reliant on short-term agency doctors, many of whom only work occasional shifts.
“There is also a shortage of A&E nurses, which is placing pressures on an already creaking service.
“Before Grantham A&E can reopen, we need to be confident that we can staff rotas for at least 12 weeks. This is to avoid the scenario of reopening A&E one day, to then close the next day due to a lack of staff.
“However, as we have 22 middle grade doctors, the trust’s executive team and clinical management board are both recommending that the trust board agrees to reopen Grantham’s A&E to help Lincolnshire’s NHS services cope this winter.
“The board will formally consider whether it is safe to fully reopen on Tuesday.
“If the board agrees to the reopening, the decision will then be subject to NHS Improvement approval before any changes happen.
“NHS Improvement has advised that they expect their review of A&E staffing to be completed within a month, so opening hours will remain 8am to 6.30pm until further notice.”