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High Court gives permission for legal challenge to decision to close hospital A&E department temporarily as part of plans for Covid-safe “Green Site”

A High Court judge has given permission for a legal challenge over a decision to close Grantham and District Hospital’s A&E department and replace it with an urgent care centre until at least 31 March 2021.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) announced in June 2020 that it was to immediately implement proposals to convert the hospital to a “Green Site” in order to carry out planned cancer and urgent surgery in a Covid-safe environment.

The claimant’s law firm, Irwin Mitchell, said ULHT had decided to downgrade existing services at Grantham and District Hospital, which included closing the A&E department and replacing it with an urgent treatment centre run by a different Trust, the closure of medical beds and the relocation of many outpatients’ services from the hospital.

It is claimed that the plans were made without appropriate public consultation or engagement.

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Claimant Jayne Dawson was granted permission for the challenge last week (26 November). A hearing is expected to take place in January 2021.

UHLT has insisted the changes are temporary and made in response to the national health emergency.

In a letter to local MPs in June, it said amongst other things: “Unfortunately, the nature of emergency care means that we do not know the COVID status of the patients that we are seeing, and therefore admitting emergency patients to the hospital would compromise the green site status.

“Hence the requirement to cease medical admissions and make the move to temporarily change the A&E to an Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) with no admissions. In addition, we do not have the level of diagnostics at Grantham to support separate blue and green diagnostic pathways or have them situated in such a way as to enable segregation of the different patient and staff groups. As a result we would not be able to support an A&E service with medical admissions.”

Faith Salih, Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Our client believes that closing the Grantham A&E department and inpatient beds will have an adverse effect on many people that depend on the facilities at their local hospital. The nearest A&E department is now over 20 miles from Grantham and many patients will have to travel a long time to get there.

“Jayne believes that the NHS Trust has acted unlawfully by not taking into consideration the needs of patients who need to use their local hospital and failing to involve them prior to making the decision. Whether these arrangements are temporary or not, the changes will have a significant impact on many people who use the service. Jayne is concerned that an urgent treatment centre will not be sufficient to deal with patients who require emergency, life-saving treatment and that the remaining Accident and Emergency departments are too busy and too far away.”

Salih added that the claimant was among a number of local people concerned about the longer term future of the hospital if these changes remain in place until March 2021. “It is well known locally that a consultation on the long term future of NHS hospital services in Lincolnshire is awaited, and that one of the options is for the Accident and Emergency Department at Grantham District Hospital to be replaced by an urgent care centre, but there are other options.”

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