RECONFIGURATION: NHS leaders in Lincolnshire will go out to public consultation later this year over plans to radically overhaul key services.

A report by the Lincolnshire Health and Care programme, a partnership of 13 NHS and care organisations, sets out early thinking as officials prepare to draw up a series of options for the sector in the county which is already more than £60m a year in the red.

Officials point to a series of problems including a failure to hit the four hour A&E waiting target for two years; more than half of patients requiring planned surgery leaving the county to receive it; and some patients waiting more than a year for mental health assessments.

They say there are significant staff shortages, with only four of 15 A&E consultant posts permanently filled; 27 per cent of medical posts at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital vacant; and one in nine GP posts empty. Spending on agency staff last year rose above £30m.

Health leaders say services provided at the county’s three hospitals face rationalisation, including maternity care, which deals with 5,500 births annually at units in Boston and Lincoln; and A&E services, currently provided at three centres – though Grantham does not receive complex cases and is likely to become part of a new network of urgent care centres.

Specialist services for mental health, cancer, stroke and vascular care face centralisation in “centres of excellence”.

Sunil Hindocha, chief clinical officer at Lincolnshire West CCG, said: “What we know is if we carry on doing things in the manner we are then Lincolnshire’s healthcare system is simply not sustainable.”

The review does not cover northern Lincolnshire, which is part of the Yorkshire and Humber footprint.