Crisis-hit hospital trust may close Grantham A&E at night
Hospital bosses could shut an accident and emergency department at night in order to combat a staffing crisis.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it is considering slashing opening hours at Grantham and District Hospital due to a severe shortage of doctors.
It said closing the Grantham A&E rather than the departments at Lincoln County Hospital or Pilgrim Hospital in Boston was the "safest option".
A spokesman for the trust said failing to act "may put patients at risk".
The Royal College for Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said news of the potential closure was "disappointing, yet unsurprising".
Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director at the trust, said: "We haven't made a final decision yet and we hope to avoid this, but the reality is we will need to temporarily reduce the opening hours of A&E at Grantham.
"The quality and safety of patient care is the trust's number one priority and we haven't rested on our laurels."
A recruitment drive both in the UK and overseas and the offer of premium rates to attract agency doctors failed to attract more staff, while £4m has been invested in urgent care services.
"Despite this, we have reached crisis point," Dr Kapadia said.
A trust spokesman said emergency departments at the hospital normally work based on having 15 consultants and 28 registrar or middle grade doctors.
However, it currently has just 14 consultants - 10 of whom are locums - and 12 middle grades.
Lincoln County Hospital or Pilgrim Hospital both take more seriously ill patients and have a higher number of patients attending A&E and being admitted than Grantham, the spokesman said.
The trust is working with other A&E providers, East Midlands Ambulance Service and clinical commissioning groups in an effort to avoid the closure at Grantham.
RCEM President Dr Clifford Mann said: "The great efforts made by doctors and nurses to help patients in under-resourced locations sometimes is not sustainable.
"As well as potentially putting patient safety at risk, placing an ever increasing workload on overstretched staff can create a vicious circle in retention and recruitment, with many overworked trainees simply choosing to leave the country or indeed the specialty altogether.
"The wider picture is there is a real crisis in emergency medicine as our workforce numbers are not growing fast enough to keep pace with rising numbers of patients attending A&E Departments."