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Spalding campaigners call for full A&E unit at Pinchbeck’s Johnson Community Hospital after NHS figures show high demand for urgent treatment centre

Health bosses have seen big surge in patients at the urgent treatment centre (UTC) at the Johnson Community Hospital – prompting calls for more services to be provided there to meet the demand of the area’s rising population.

Leaders of Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust say they are seeing ‘high demand’ at the Spalding area hospital and are forecasting that 28,901 people could end up using the UTC service by the end of March. That would mean patient numbers for this year would be up by almost a third on 2022/23.

The trust’s recent board minutes show that concerns were raised about whether the UTC had the staffing levels to cope with the number of people turning up – but the trust now says it has secured funding for new recruits.

The Urgent Treatment Centre at Johnson Hospital is seeing a big rise in the number of patients
The Urgent Treatment Centre at Johnson Hospital is seeing a big rise in the number of patients

Now campaigners feel the hospital should be upgraded to have a full accident and emergency unit to make it fit to serve an ever-growing population. Speaking of the lack of services in our district, health worker – and district councillor – Glynis Scalese quipped: “We have more vets than health services.”

Trust board papers flagged resources at the ‘Spalding and Gainsborough UTCs’ – and said the high volume of patients was impacting on the sites’ performances with a requirement to assess patients within 15 minutes of arriving.

Coun Glynis Scalese with her husband Antonio after winning the vote
Coun Glynis Scalese with her husband Antonio after winning the vote

The documents stated: “Since September there have been a significant improvement across the majority of the UTCs however areas of concern remain as Spalding and Gainsborough which continue to see high demand, above the predicted figures for this time of year. They remain the most vulnerable sites, with lower performance impacting on adherence to this overall target.”

The site was upgraded from a minor injury unit – to deal with broken bones and sprains – to a UTC which can investigate, diagnose, and deal with common illnesses and injuries. It is hoped these centres can take the pressure off busy A&E departments.

The report added: “Spalding Minor Injuries Unit transitioned into an UTC in 2021 to support the Lincolnshire Health and Care System during the pandemic. Over the course of the past two years activity has increased for several reasons including, but not limited to, increased patient population, patient choice and the ease of same day access.

“In 2022/2023 21,903 attended, we are forecasting for 2023/2024 28,901 patients could attend.”

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The trust says the majority of patients (60%) arrived with an injury while 40% had illness. The top five presenting complaints are cough and throat problems, injury of a lower limb, swelling in an upper limb, rashes/abscesses, and wounds.

Advanced clinical practitioners, nurses, and paramedics man the unit.

Julie Frake-Harris, chief operating officer for Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The UTC is always appropriately staffed and patient safety is never compromised. When we experience increases in demand, we relocate resources from quieter sites and use temporary workforce where necessary.

“We have recently secured funding allowing us to successfully recruit additional workforce above the existing model, in line with the increase in demand.”

“Despite current challenges across the NHS, Spalding UTC continues to perform to a high standard, delivering high quality care and positive patient experiences. We welcome feedback from the public in relation to our services and always endeavour to improve our services and remain integral to the local community.

“Patients can do their bit to support the NHS by using the most appropriate service for their illness or injury, to help make sure that urgent and emergency care services are available for those who need them most. If you are unsure what service they need, please use NHS 111 online in the first instance.”

George Scott
George Scott

Retired NHS worker and transport campaigner George Scott feels that the area now needs a full A&E unit.

He said: “Our population is going to increase by the amount of housing which is going on. We have to have the infrastructure to deal with health needs.”

Coun Glynis Scalese, who used to work at Johnson Hospital in the palliative care ward, said: “We need a proper A&E unit and it needs to be 24 hours a day.

“We need to do something. Something needs to happen.”

The new hospital was built to replace the old derelict gothic building in Priory Road. The new site opened in 2009 and provides a number of services including 32 bed palliative care unit.

What do you think? Do we need more A&E facilities in our area? Post your thoughts in the comments below

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