Health bosses behind proposals for a major shakeup of NHS services in Lincolnshire, including the potential closure of Grantham A&E and centralised maternity services, have insisted they have been transparent with plans.
The Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan was released into the public domain a week early on Tuesday, December 6 after it was initially leaked to the BBC.
Representatives from three of the seven Lincolnshire health organisations involved in the project spoke to Lincolnshire Reporter following the release of the 121-page plan.
As previously reported, plans indicate that Grantham Hospital could be downgraded to an urgent care centre.
Under the proposals, maternity services could be centralised either across Boston and Lincoln or transferring services and consultants to Lincoln County Hospital only, as well as more focus and help in the community.
At present, the trust has over 300 nurse vacancies across acute general hospitals. Mental health care also has 170 vacancies.
In addition, over 2,000 planned operations are cancelled every year.
The plan states a predicted system deficit of £182 million by 2021 if changes aren’t made to the delivery of services, and sets out proposals to save £130 million by this time.
It also sets out an increase in spend on health services in Lincolnshire from £1.266 billion per year (2016/17) to £1.4 billion per year (2020/21) with the biggest shift in focus being on care in the community and GP practices.
Lincolnshire’s STP does not include North Lincolnshire or the North East Lincolnshire local authority areas.
A 12-week public consultation will be undertaken on the proposals in the summer of 2017.
Downgrading Grantham ‘unacceptable’
Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Councillor Martin Hill has spoken out in rejection of plans to permanently downgrade Grantham Hospital.
He said: “I believe there are very significant issues with the delivery of health services in Lincolnshire.
“The publishing of the NHS STP plan today has raised many questions. We welcome some of the positive proposals for the potential future arrangements of healthcare in our county, such as area teams working better together and more timely, local access to services. But there are also some suggestions which we find unacceptable.
“Living in a large rural county, Lincolnshire residents have a right to expect three 24 hour hospitals operating in the county delivering appropriate emergency access and services.
“We do not support the permanent downgrading of Grantham hospital and do not believe that the maternity proposals at Boston would be safe for unforeseen emergencies in the eastern part of the county.
“We also have concerns about whether these proposals can even be delivered. In particular the lack of information where the required investment of £205m will come from and whether all the different NHS organisations will be able to deliver the necessary changes, for example, East Midlands Ambulance Service.
“The key question of achieving adequate staff recruitment and retention still remains unresolved and brings into question whether the current NHS configuration in Lincolnshire is itself sustainable in the long term.
“We will continue to keep this high on the agenda and work with NHS organisations to ensure people in Lincolnshire get the health services they need.”