• Health secretary orders review of Lincolnshire trust’s decision to close hospital A&E overnight
  • Independent reconfiguration panel will make initial assessment of whether full review is needed
  • Trust says remains committed to fully reopening Grantham A&E ‘but only when safe to do so’

Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review of United Hospitals Lincolnshire Trust’s decision to close Grantham and District Hospital’s accident and emergency department overnight by the independent reconfiguration panel.

Lincolnshire County Council requested the health secretary to intervene at the end of last year “in light of local concerns” following the trust introducing what it said was a “temporary” night time closure of the Grantham A&E last year.

The trust said it was doing it because staff shortages meant having full opening hours was putting patients at risk. Trust chief executive Jan Sobieraj told HSJ in November that the trust intended to reintroduce 24/7 opening times at Grantham but he suggested the emergency unit could be reduced to an “urgent care centre-plus”.

Mr Hunt has asked the independent panel to present its initial assessment of whether a full review is necessary by 22 March.

The IPR is the Department of Health committee which reviews changes to NHS services which are being contested. It is chaired by Lord Bernard Ribeiro.

Lincolnshire CC councillor Christine Anne Talbot said in a statement: “I’m delighted [Mr Hunt] has listened to our concerns and asked the IRP to investigate. When we referred the issue to the Secretary we did not believe that overnight services would be reinstated in February as planned, and those fears proved to be well-founded.

 “I’m confident that the IRP will agree that a full review is warranted, and I look forward to being able to present our case in full. [The trust] need to realise that the people of Grantham deserve better. I hope today’s decision will underline that this is not something we will let rest.”

The trust said the decision to change the opening hours at Grantham A&E “is due to a severe shortage of middle grade doctors at Lincoln and Boston A&Es [and was] a temporary change to the A&E hours not a reconfiguration of the service”.

Medical director Suneil Kapadia added: “[The trust] remains committed to fully reopening Grantham A&E but only when safe to do so.”