Lincolnshire county councillors have voted to refer the controversial continued overnight closure of Grantham A&E to the Health Secretary.
Ten of the 11 members on the council’s Health Scrutiny Committee voted in favour of the referral to Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday, November 23, stating that the closure is not in the interests of the residents of Grantham and the surrounding areas.
As previously reported, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust made the unprecedented decision to close the town’s A&E overnight from 6.30pm to 9am until at least February 2017.
The trust has previously told Lincolnshire Reporter that it is committed to reopening the A&E, but only when enough doctors are recruited.
At the moment ULHT has 16 middle grade doctors and needs up to 21 before they will consider fully reopening Grantham A&E.
Chairman of the committee, Councillor Christine Talbot, said that she was worried that the A&E would not open in February, as promised by the trust.
She said: “I said in October that if local government rules could have been broken, if it is found that changes have been brought in without scrutiny, there will be consequences.
“The consequences for ULHT is that this committee will be referring to the Secretary of State because we have fulfilled everything we were meant to do under the regulations.
“I cannot actually see the services being reinstated on February 17 because you’re [ULHT] not going to be able to recruit.
“I feel very sad that we have to do this but we have to think of the people of Lincolnshire and more importantly the residents of Grantham and surrounding area.”
A good result
The public gallery saw cheers at the end of the meeting after the referral was announced.
Melissa Darcey, campaigner for the Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital group, said: “This is basically Lincolnshire County Council stating that they are not happy with the way that things have been addressed by the trust board.
“It is absolutely fabulous news.
“This takes it to the next level, people power is paramount and we wont back down.”
County councillor Richard Davies, who spoke during the meeting, said: “While we have not got the change that we needed, in terms of the hospital services being reopened, it shows that the whole community has come together and are formally saying to the department of health and Secretaty of State this is not good enough, we expect something to be done.
“I think the impact that is going to have on ULHT is very severe and I think they are going to have some time to react and hopefully it will send them a message that the people of Grantham aren’t a walk over.
Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director at ULHT, said that he was not surprised by the decision that has been made.
He told Lincolnshire Reporter: “The decision did not come as a surprise, as I have stated before on several occasions the actions we took were on grounds of patient safety and I await the outcome of the Secretary of State for Health in due course.
“I still feel absolutely that [closing Grantham A&E] was the right decision.
“I empathise with the residents of Grantham and I understand their concerns but what we are trying to do is look at the health care for the population of Lincolnshire and of course Grantham residents are well served if there is a functioning and viable emergency department at Lincoln and Pilgrim.
“The trust board feels that this was the least worst option open to us.”