Government responds to petition calling on health services not to be downgraded - says changes should be led by clinicians

Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.
Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.

The Department for Health has responded to a 10,200 signature petition calling on health services not to be downgraded at Pilgrim Hospital - by saying that changes to local NHS services should be ‘led by clinicians’.

It has taken 50 days for the Government to respond to Boston Focus Group’s petition, which is called Stop United Lincs Hospitals Trust from DOWNGRADING Boston Pilgrim hospital, but is aimed at the healthcare reviews being carried out by Lincolnshire Health and Care (LHAC).

Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman has also responded to the news, saying that he hopes it ‘scotches baseless rumours around the future of our local NHS’.

The petition was started in April and currently has 10,226 signatures.

The response from the Department of Health, released today (Friday), says that local NHS service changes should be led by clinicians and be in patients’ best interests.

It says: “The Government recognises that people in Lincolnshire have concerns about the Lincolnshire Health and Care review and its current proposals, but the reconfiguration of health services is a matter for the NHS locally.

“Any changes to local services should be led by clinicians and patients, not from the top down.

“It is for NHS commissioners and service providers to work together with patients and the public in bringing forward proposals that will improve the quality and sustainability of healthcare services.

“Although this is a local responsibility, the Government has set out strengthened criteria that it expects NHS service changes to meet.

“Namely, they should have support from commissioners, focus on improving patient outcomes, consider patient choice, and be based on sound clinical evidence.”

The response recognises that NHS organisations are working with LHAC, which aims to ensure that the future provision of health services is financially sustainable, and that all services are clinically viable and safe.

Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman has already responded to the Governments statement by saying it is an opportunity to ‘remind the local clinicians who will take decisions on the future of the NHS in Lincolnshire that patients must come first when much-needed healthcare reforms are planned’.

He said: “I’m comforted that this is the view they too have expressed privately to me, but it is also clear that government will not allow patients to be worse off under new arrangements.

“Instead, we must balance the critical mass required for centres of excellence with healthcare equally accessible to all in our large, rural and sparsely populated county.”

He added: “I am pleased that the Government has given this petition the attention it deserves, and agrees with me that any changes to NHS services in our area must be focused on ensuring the very best care for patients.

“It is right that decisions on healthcare services are made locally, as commissioners and clinicians will have the best knowledge of what our area needs.

“I must make clear that no decision on this matter has yet been made, and any planed changed will need to go through public consultation first.

“I will continue to work with all of our local health services and commissioners to ensure that any changes are in the best interest of patients.

“I hope in the meantime this response scotches baseless rumours around the future of our local NHS, and prompts the early publication of plans so that we can all look to a future that is better for patients and staff, and builds on recent new facilities, staff and recruitment at Pilgrim.”

The Lincolnshire Sustainable Services Review began in 2013 and later became the Lincolnshire Health And Care (LHAC) review. Other reviews have also been carried out by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (which runs the Pilgrim) and others, and these are set to feed into the LHAC review. Options previously put forward included:

l One specialist emergency centre and one consolidated inpatient Women and Children’s Service located at Pilgrim Hospital

l One specialist emergency centre and one consolidated inpatient Women and Children’s Service located at Lincoln

l One specialist emergency centre at Pilgrim Hospital and Women and Children’s at both hospitals

l One specialist emergency centre at Lincoln and Women and Children’s at both hospitals.

It was said when the reviews began that doing nothing was ‘simply not an option’ and that by 2018 NHS health and care organisations in the county could have a combined budget deficit of upwards of £100m per year.

LHAC recently released it’s Case for Change report, which included sections on Maternity, Accident and Emergency and ‘centres of excellence’.

For more information on the review visit http://lincolnshirehealthandcare.org.

Boston Focus Group have been approached for a response.