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Staff strikes ‘biggest risk’ to Lincolnshire’s health sector this winter - health chiefs





Hospital staff strikes were “the biggest risk” to Lincolnshire’s health sector this winter, the county’s integrated care board has said.

During these periods of strike action, thousands of cancelled procedures and hospital appointments have accumulated in Lincolnshire, and local health representatives blamed those workers on strike.

NHS Lincolnshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) members pointed to staff strikes as many as six times during Wednesday’s Health Scrutiny Committee, as the county’s health sector came under the microscope for its performance during the winter months.

The Health and Scrutiny meeting
The Health and Scrutiny meeting

Claire Raybould, the director for system delivery at NHS Lincolnshire ICB, said the health board has “sadly got quite good” at managing industrial action.

“As we anticipated it was a really busy winter for us and it was quite challenging, but we did have quite a typical respiratory virus presentation, so we expected that to be a bit worse than it was to be honest.

“We said last time that the biggest risk to winter was the continued industrial action, and unfortunately that did continue and we actually had dual industrial action from consultants and junior doctors at the same time for very long periods.

Hospitals had staff strikes this winter
Hospitals had staff strikes this winter

“The work we have to do to prepare for that and deal with the industrial action is really significant and often unseen. We manage it really well in Lincolnshire, but it does have an impact and it certainly impacts patients, we know that.”

The strikes were claimed as mitigation for Lincolnshire falling short of some NHS targets in the last year, such as the number of patients being seen, treated and discharged or admitted within four hours.

The national target for this was set at 76% of patients within the four-hour period from April 1, 2023, and across all accident & emergency and Urgent Treatment Centre activity in the county, Lincolnshire ICB figures were at 65.1% for February 2024, compared to 70.9% for England’s performance as a whole. The target for the next financial year is 78%.

Work has begun on Pilgrim Hospital's new Emergency Department in Boston. Photo: United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
Work has begun on Pilgrim Hospital's new Emergency Department in Boston. Photo: United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s next big target focuses on people waiting over a year for treatment, with the trust saying it is on track to make those waiting over 78 weeks “a thing of the past” and eliminate waits of over 52 weeks by March 2025.

ULHT did say, though, that an overseas recruitment drive had proven successful in recent times, with as many as 780 internationally educated students joining the trust across the last three years.

These staff members came from 42 cohorts across the globe — whether it’s India, Japan, Malta, the Philippines or Jamaica.

As of January 2024, there are a total of 8,396 full-time equivalent substantive staff members in post across all departments of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, with both vacancy and turnover rates heading in the right direction across the last two years.

Vacancy rates have reduced from 10.55% in April 2022 to 6.17% in January 2024, and staff turnover went from 15.45% in April 2022 to 11.11% in January 2024.

The trust said this was “very successful” work for the county’s health provision, and seeks to “stabilise our substantive workforce” both in the immediate and longer-term future.

Elsewhere in the meeting, representatives from United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust provided updates on a number of developments in the county, including the opening of community diagnostic centres and scale-ups of existing departments at both Pilgrim and Lincoln County Hospitals.

Work is “well underway” at the Emergency Department at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, with a view to completion by 2026. Once finished, the department will more than treble in size.

The trust is also “moving forward” with plans for a new £18.9 million endoscopy unit and urology investigation suite at Lincoln County Hospital.

It will be starting work “later this year” on expansion of the stroke unit, with plans for a multi-million pound development to increase the unit’s bed capacity.

Development has also begun on community diagnostic centres in both Skegness and Lincoln — to go alongside the existing site in Grantham.

County Hospital Louth will also benefit from around £1 million in investment for additional capacity to its endoscopy unit, and this would translate to an increase in diagnostics activity to treat an extra 1,200 patients from the hospital.



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