Lincolnshire

Lincoln A&E unit declared 'critical' over continued doctors shortage

Lincoln County Hospital Image copyright ULHT
Image caption The A&E unit at Lincoln County Hospital is struggling to provide a full service, ULHT says

Hospital bosses have declared Lincoln's accident and emergency unit a "critical incident" due to a shortage of doctors.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) said it was "struggling to fill rotas" over the next few weeks.

Grantham and District Hospital's A&E unit has been closed overnight since last August because of the shortage.

The trust said it was "working hard to maintain a safe service" and urged people to visit A&E for only "serious or life threatening" conditions.

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Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director at ULHT, said: "We are putting in steps to change our medical model. This means doctors from other specialities will be asked to support A&E senior decision makers to diagnose and treat medical and surgical patients who come through the doors."

'Stay away'

In a statement, the trust said its "supply of doctors is drying up".

"We are overly reliant on short and long term agency doctors to fill staff rotas and due to a recent change in national tax rules (known as IR35), the availability of agency doctors has drastically reduced."

Boston Pilgrim A&E unit was also affected, but to "a lesser extent", the trust said.

Dr Kapadia warned people to "stay away unless they need emergency health treatment".

Image caption Grantham A&E started closing at night in August

ULHT employs about 17 doctors across its three sites in Lincoln, Boston and Grantham, and needs a minimum of 21 to keep all of them open for 24 hours.

The trust took the controversial decision to close the Grantham unit at night to enable it to maintain safe staffing levels at its two other A&E departments, both of which take a higher number of patients.

It said it had extended the A&E's opening times by an hour, but campaigners branded this move as "ridiculous".

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