Members of the SOS Pilgrim group.
The protest was launched as part of the Boston Focus Group’s SOS Pilgrim campaign – which follows more than three years of reviews into the county’s healthcare.
It is feared as part of that services - including maternity - could be downgraded at Pilgrim or moved to a single site in the county.
The petition on the Government’s online petition site calls on United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, which runs the site, not to downgrade services.
Philip Bosworth, who chairs the group, said: “It obviously shows people care very much about the local delivery of NHS services. It’s very indicative of the whole concern that everyone would have should those emergency services move away from Boston Pilgrim and people making the effort to share (the petition) with each other shows the depth of feeling and depth of concern.”
The Lincolnshire Health and Care (LHAC) review began in 2013 but its final outcomes have been delayed, most recently due to NHS England’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP).
When the reviews began, the public was told by hospital bosses that doing nothing was ‘simply not an option’ and that by 2018 NHS organisations in the county could have a combined budget deficit of upwards of £100m per year.
A meeting at Westside Surgery, in Boston, on Wednesday saw Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) lead Gary James tell those attending that his personal opinion would be that the review would put forward two options for maternity.
These included ‘the best thing we can design on two sites’ but he also said ‘let’s also describe how a one site model would work’.
He added: “My personal opinion is that it’s the woman and children’s service and they are the most important people we need to listen to.”
He said: “It might be possible we can design a one site with obstetrics focus with midwifery that’s better than what we have got now.”
He indicated that the most likely services to be moved however, could be planned services, such as vascular opertaions. But he was unable to say which sites would carry out which services.
He said that whatever options came forth from the review they ‘would have to be fully-costed and carefully tested’.
He said: “We’re not allowed to design a health service that’s worse but cheaper.”
He denied a rumour that staff in the maternity unit were being told to call it by a different name, adding: “It’s going to be called the maternity unit, there will be a formal opening and have a ribbon cutting.”
Mr James went on to say there had been extensive talks regarding the options including some which were ‘out of the box’.
One such suggestion included building a whole new hospital in a central position, for example Sleaford, to deal with urgent care or accident and emergency. This would be similar to a hospital which was opened last year in Northumbria. He said many of the suggestions were thrown out due to the costs and time they would take.
Mr James said that he personally wanted to see Lincolnshire become a specialist in providing rural health care - understanding that the landscape in the county and distance between places created a ‘unique’ set of problems for healthcare services.
He said he understood the frustration people felt at the lack of information and the delays and said the organisations involved felt the same.
He promised to work towards improving communication to the public.
LHAC has organised a meeting of 150 stakeholders including local clinicians, county councillors, MPs, clinical commissioning groups and trust members on May 11, at the Petwood Hotel, in Woodhall Spa.
The private meeting, which press and public cannot attend, will see those present hear the arguments for and against proposed options and later score them to find out the preferred options.
The STP is set to be handed in at the end of June, after which LHAC has said it will be able to go to public consultation on its preferred options.