The Leader of the Council made a statement in relation to Grantham Hospital. At the January meeting of Council, it was noted that there were many issues that affected Grantham and the wider district. One of the main issues was the need for 24/7 urgent care provision in the largest town within South Kesteven. The Council was supporting growth within the district to develop communities in a dynamic and sustainable way. It was therefore considered essential that health provision supported the existing and expanding communities and provided a high quality accessible health care service for the residents of South Kesteven.
United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust (ULHT) had announced temporary changes to the services that would be provided on the Grantham Hospital site. Some of the proposals were welcomed, such as the provision of cancer care treatments and the provision of some elective surgery at Grantham hospital, together with the separation of COVID-19 and non COVID-19 issues.
The Leader stated that any proposals for the hospital needed to reflect future needs as well as current demands, which at present they did not. Conversations had been held with both Gareth Davies MP and Caroline Johnson MP who would continue to lobby for a health care provision for existing and the future needs of the district. A special Council meeting would be held to discuss the proposed changes to Grantham hospital and the views of the Council would be presented to the ULHT Board and its Chief Executive, Andrew Morgan.
A Member, not on the Cabinet, wished to place on record thanks and appreciation to the NHS not only in Grantham, but nationwide, for the professional way in which they had served everyone, putting their lives at risk on a daily basis. The Member then spoke about the decision made last week by the ULHT Board to downgrade Grantham Hospital’s accident and emergency department to an urgent treatment centre from 22 June 2020 and a COVID-19 green hospital.
The Member agreed that those with cancer on the waiting list should be treated as soon as possible but was very concerned about the loss of the accident and emergency department on a temporary basis until 31 March 2021 and felt that it would not recover. Hospital staff had raised concerns with the Member that services would be lost “by the backdoor”. During a radio interview in April, ULHT’s Chief Executive, Andrew Morgan had stated that the Trust was not looking to downgrade the site “by the backdoor”. Grantham Hospital’s accident and emergency department had been closed at night since 16 August 2016 and it was felt that the temporary changed would become permanent.
At a recent meeting the Chief Executive of ULHT had stated that it was the responsibility of Lincolnshire CCG to make changes. ULHT figures stated that 19% of patients (4,603) would have to travel to Lincoln or Boston, where waiting figures for the ULHT were one of the worst recorded in England for dealing with patients within a four-hour period.
It was noted that Councillors and campaigners had made their voices known over the four-year period since the temporary closure of the accident and emergency department with rallies, motions at Council and protests. The non- Cabinet Member asked if the Cabinet would consider sending a letter to John Turner, Chief Operating Officer for the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care acknowledging the need for cancer patients to be seen and treated quickly but that Grantham hospital should be reinstated back to its current position and a public consultation held on the hospital’s future as soon as possible.
The Leader stated that he would be happy to send a letter and referred to the extraordinary Council meeting. Following that meeting a strong letter needed to be sent and signed by the Chairman of the Council and himself as Leader. The Leader raised concerns about the relocation of staff affected by the current proposals and temporary changes being made elsewhere in the country which were for much shorter periods of time. He did not consider finance should be an issue as the Government had written off a £345 million of hospital debt.
Other Members of the Cabinet and Council endorsed what had been said and felt that the COVID-19 pandemic was being used as a mechanism to downgrade services “by the backdoor” at Grantham hospital.
A question was asked about the date and time of the Extraordinary Council meeting and the Leader stated that Monday 29 June or Wednesday 1 July 2020 were being considered as possible dates. He stated that Members would be notified of the time and date of the meeting as soon as they had been confirmed.
A question was asked about the leisure transformation programme and the Working Groups that had been nominated by the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) and the Culture and Visitor Economy OSC. These working groups had not met but the Deputy Leader had spoken to Parish Councils on the subject. Investment Plans for the Leisure Centres was on the Forward Plan to report at the September Cabinet and the non-Cabinet Member wanted to know the scrutiny path for the issue and whether consultation would take place with Ward Members. The non-Cabinet Member also asked whether a joint OSC meeting would take place between the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services OSC and the Culture and Visitor Economy OSC.
The Deputy Leader referred to his meeting at the end of January 2020 with Members for the Deepings area and the meeting he had attended with Deeping St James Parish Council. Before the September meeting of the Cabinet a meeting would be arranged with the Chairman of the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services OSC to confirm a date for a joint meeting to discuss the leisure programme and the options available to the Council. The leisure programme would require significant investment and feedback from the joint OSC meeting would allow for the refinement of the report and future engagement and consultation with Members.
The Deputy Leader had visited all the leisure centres with Members from all groups and the proposal was to upgrade, facilities in Bourne, Grantham and Stamford and build a new centre in the Deepings. Consultation had been carried out with an architect who had undertaken design for Sport England projects and the Deputy Leader hoped to progress the issue as soon as possible.
The Leader of the Council stated that the leisure programme would be the largest expenditure that the Council would have and confirmed that engagement would take place with local Ward Members. There would be opportunity for Members to debate the issue at the joint OSC meeting, Cabinet and Council, which would make the final decision.
A further question was asked about the current position on the development of a new cycling strategy through Sustrans. A budget of £11,000 had been agreed in March 2019. The Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations stated that the Council was not able to come to an agreement with Sustrans and therefore the strategy had not been progressed. The Council has continued to support Sustrans with other projects such as the crossing at Harlaxton and a project to enhance cross Grantham connectivity in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Cycling was something that would be part of the green recovery and should be directed through the Environment Overview Scrutiny Committee.
The Leader was asked if he would support the Members of the Planning Committee during the COVID-19 recovery plan to resume full site visits whilst acknowledging social distancing. During the height of lockdown Members had been told not to visit sites. The Member felt that this hiatus had highlighted the vital need to see a site on the ground before determining an application. The non-Cabinet Member stated that decisions made by the Planning Committee affected communities and had long term impacts and he felt that site visits should be re-introduced. The work being undertaken by the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning and the Chairman of the Planning Committee was welcomed.
The Leader said that he would support site visits if they were sensible and appropriate. The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning stated that site visits were being considered and he was hopeful that they could be resumed in July 2020 for important sites. A Member who was on the Planning Committee endorsed the need for site visits to enable Members to get a feel for the area that could not be found in reports.