Lincolnshire health bosses have been accused of not listening to residents as they confirmed they were taking plans to downgrade Grantham Hospital forward to consultation.
Councillors on Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee also felt they had been “brushed off” by a government minister’s response to their concerns.
NHS Lincolnshire CCG Chief Executive John Turner, confirmed that four out of eight proposals were being progressed.
- A controversial 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre at Grantham Hospital
- For Grantham to become a “Centre of Excellence” for elective surgery
- For Grantham to become a “Centre of Excellence” for orthopaedic surgery
- For Lincoln Hospital to become a “Centre of Excellence” for acute stroke care.
Grantham is currently being used as a UTC as part of a solution to tackle COVID-19 but bosses have previously said this was only a temporary move.
Bosses say the UTC will still see the majority of patients needing emergency care, however more specialist and life-threatening situations will need to travel 25 miles to Lincoln, 30 miles to Boston or outside of the county.
NHS Lincolnshire has previously argued the downgrade is simply a ‘name change’, as the hospital’s A&E department has not been run at full capacity for years.
Grantham A&E has experienced significant staffing issues. In August 2016 the service was closed overnight.
Bosses have said full consultation would be carried out before changes were made permanent – however, no date has yet been set for this to launch.
Grantham husband and wife councillors Linda and Ray Wootten both responded by querying whether public engagement carried out over the past year under the Health Conversations guise had actually been listened to.
Councillor Ray Wootten said: “My impression is that you haven’t really listened to the people of Grantham and you are proposing your preferred option, which is UTC.
He said the report gave “no indication that we had a number of rallies throughout the town, or a 60,000 petition to Downing Street”.
Councillor Linda Wootten said: “Were you actually listening? Because we did not say we wanted a UTC unit, we wanted our A&E back.
“I think NHS England is being rather naughty and they’re steering you to streamline ULHT to have one super hospital and taking away from our site at Grantham.”
Mr Turner said healthcare bosses were “keen” to get to public consultation on the changes, accepting that the issue, which has lasted four years, had “gone on too long” and that “people need certainty”.
“It would be great if we could arrive at a point where we’ve all moved on with certainty at the future shape of hospital services in Grantham. I’m sure you look forward to that as much as I do.
“I think I and my chief executive colleagues, our boards and our staff listened very, very, carefully to the people we serve.
“You will make your own judgements in terms of what you see in relation to that, but yourselves and the people of Grantham have consistently ensured that your views were put forward.
“There’s a separate issue about the extent to which the NHS is able to respond to the wishes of local people, be they in Grantham or anywhere else. but that’s a different matter to whether we are listening to people, and I believe we are.”
Councillors were also updated on a reply from minister for health Edward Argar in response to a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock.
In the letter the minister said it was “vital that he people of Grantham are able to access 24-hour care for both A&E and urgent treatment needs”.
However, he said decisions on health services were “best planned and delivered by the NHS locally”.
Councillor Mark Whittington said he was “distinctly underwhelmed” by the response and that it was “just passing it back locally” while Councillor Chris Brewis said the letter was “in effect brushing it off and saying it’s not me.”
Councillor Ray Wootten said: “The minister’s response does not fill me with hope for the future of Grantham Hospital. Despite resolutions being issued by this council and district council we’re still no further far forward than we were three years ago, when the overnight closure came into effect.
Councillor Stephen Woodliffe added: “This is a Conservative-run county asking a Conservative government to do something. It’s about time they recognised that.”
Councillors voted to write back to the minister asking for clarification on the roles of local and national organisations in future decision-making.