Thank you, Madam Chairman.
May I start by saying that I am sure I speak for all my fellow councillors when I say that we are extremely grateful to you for allowing this extraordinary meeting of South Kesteven District Council to take place so quickly.
The desire of all parties to call this meeting and your prompt action in answering that call are clear indications of this council’s dismay at the latest announcement by the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust in relation to the future of Grantham and District Hospital. It also underlines our determination to do all that we can to fight for a healthcare provision that meets the needs of our residents now, and for generations to come.
Grantham is growing. Yes, it is a town with challenges,
but it is also a town with huge potential. Our aim as a council is to work with our partners in the private and public sectors to fulfil that potential. I am determined that we will deliver housing, economic growth, and a revitalised town centre to realise that potential.
We need the right healthcare infrastructure to support our plans. Nothing less will do.
Many colleagues in this meeting today, from all parties, have joined residents on the campaign frontline as well as lobbying behind the scenes to stop the healthcare provision that supports our town and wider district from being downgraded.
I’m not going to list names, because it is inevitable that I will miss someone and inadvertently cause offence, but I would like to give a special mention to Cllrs Ray Wootton, Ian Selby, and Charmaine Morgan, who have been particularly forthright in their determination to hold the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust to account for their actions.
As I said at our full Council meeting in January, there are many important issues affecting Grantham and our wider district, but few as vital as the need for 24-7 urgent care services in what is our largest town in South Kesteven and indeed, the second largest town in Lincolnshire.
As a council, we are encouraging and supporting growth that develops our communities in a dynamic but sustainable way.
It is, therefore, imperative that we have a health service provision that supports our existing and expanding communities and provides the high-quality, accessible health care our residents rightly deserve and demand.
The issue goes beyond the provision of an around-the-clock urgent treatment centre. We need to ensure that our growth is supported by the provision of an appropriate health infrastructure as an integral part of Grantham’s expansion and regeneration.
Some of the temporary measures given the green light by the Health Trust last month are to be welcomed, namely the provision of specialist cancer care and treatment unit, elective surgery, and the sensible separation of areas within the hospital to enable the safe care of patients suffering from Covid-19, and those needing other treatment.
However, I am seriously concerned that these measures, due to remain in place until 31 March 2021, do not reflect future needs nor current demands.
The closure of all medical wards is not acceptable to any of us.
As you know, I have spoken with our local MPs, Gareth Davies, and Caroline Johnson. Their joint letter to the Trust’s Chief Executive, Andrew Morgan, has made their position clear. Grantham has their united support and they will fight tirelessly to protect the future of this town’s hospital.
Health does not fall within our remit. We are not responsible for any decisions that can impact directly on this important issue. But we do have a voice.
We must ensure that we focus our attention and efforts where the decisions will be made, the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust.
This is why I wholly support the proposal brought forward by Councillor Ray Wootten.
I cannot recall a peacetime period in our recent history, when our NHS has been more valued or needed than during these last few months. Our health service has always been treasured, but the selflessness and bravery of all those who work on the wards, in whatever capacity, has truly humbled us all throughout Covid-19.
There is nothing more important than good health. For that we need good healthcare. I am not prepared to sit quietly by and allow that provision within our town to slip silently away.