A protest supporting Grantham Hospital staff and opposing planned changes which will see it become a “COVID-19 free” site has seen hundreds attend.
Campaigners said they were “completely overwhelmed” by the level of support for the “socially distanced” gathering outside the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust facility on Monday.
Bosses at the trust have approved plans to tackle coronavirus including downgrading the accident and emergency department to an Urgent Treatment Centre.
The proposals will see A&E patients and non-elective patients turned away from Grantham Hospital to other sites.
Elective surgery and day cases such as chemotherapy patients will instead be taken from Pilgrim and Lincoln hospitals and transferred to Grantham.
Staff and councillors joined in the protest which campaigners said saw “a good few hundred” attend.
Fighting for Grantham Hospital campaigner Jody Clark said: “We stood in support of our staff, who are being moved due to the changes.
“We also oppose the level of these changes, we understand the need for a safe site for vulnerable patients but the trusts plan leaves a lot of our hospital closed?
“Grantham hospital site has multiple entrances and exits, so with a little investment, they could easily increase the safe capacity and still keep most of our local services.
“We will continue to monitor the impact this has on our community and across the county and challenge the trust to reinstate our services as soon as is safe to do so.”
Healthwatch Lincolnshire has also called for ULHT to be “open and transparent” about its plans “so that communities who access those services can make their own judgements as to what is right for the whole of our patient population.”
In a statement released on Monday the organisation said: “Healthwatch recognises the concerns this news may have for the people living in Grantham, particularly with their long hard battle with regards to retaining an A&E service in the town.
“In our view, it is not a downgrading but an acknowledgement that Grantham Hospital has a crucial and long-lasting role to play in Lincolnshire healthcare services.”
United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust has been asked for comment.