Grantham A&E will not reopen overnight and could be downgraded to an urgent care centre in the new year, a leading hospital boss in the county has confirmed.
The A&E department was controversially closed at night by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust back in August 2016, with the ‘temporary’ closure lasting now for almost 18 months.
ULHT said that they were hoping to fully reopen the department at a board meeting in November following a successful recruitment campaign.
However, the decision was reviewed by NHS Improvement, who asked the East of England Clinical Senate to conduct a safety review of A&E departments in Lincoln, Boston and Grantham, to see whether opening hours could be returned to normal.
The trust itself has recruited more than the required number of middle grade doctors it deemed necessary to consider reviewing the opening hours at Grantham A&E.
Despite this, the senate has recommended that the department is not reopened overnight at this time.
When questioned by Lincolnshire Reporter, ULHT medical director Dr Neill Hepburn admitted that the department would not be reopening at night at this stage.
He said: “We’re not going to do that.
“The clinical senate’s advice is that although we have increased the numbers of staff and have been successful in recruiting staff, they don’t feel we’ve got enough to reopen it on a sustainable basis.”
The report also suggests that the department could be downgraded to an urgent care centre, and that any changes to service provision should be linked to the Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which is looking at longer-term plans for care in the county.
Dr Hepburn claimed the term “downgrade” was inappropriate, despite these recommendations and the fact that Grantham had a fully open A&E department as recently as the summer of 2016.
He said that much of it boiled down to a change in the name, rather than a change in what is provided by the department.
He added: “We understand this is a frustrating time for our staff and patients in the Grantham area, and we do remain committed to Grantham Hospital, but we will only provide services that are safe.”
Jeff Worrall, delivery and improvement director and NHS Improvement, said: “We commissioned this report to ensure that any decision made by the trust is grounded in expert views on patient safety, which remains our top priority in terms of Lincolnshire’s A&E services.”
NHS Improvement has urged ULHT board members to follow the recommendations.
The ULHT board will consider the recommendations on Friday, December 15 in Sleaford, with the meeting expected to be just a formality.