Fears for low-income families if consultant-led maternity moved from Pilgrim Hospital

Coun Paul Gleeson is concerned about people who can't afford public transport to attend hospitals elswhere.

Coun Paul Gleeson is concerned about people who can't afford public transport to attend hospitals elswhere.

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Boston councillors want to save Pilgrim Hospital’s consultant-led maternity unit as health services across the county face sweeping changes.

Among services that could switch to Lincoln are maternity and neonatal care and children’s (paediatric) emergency care.

“Forty per cent of our working population are on working tax credits. How is it free at the point of delivery if you have got no money and you have got to get yourself to Lincoln, Grantham or anywhere else?”

Coun Paul Gleeson

Councillors are worried about residents on the breadline unable to pay for public transport to get care, poor transport links that could mean patients travelling the day before to attend appointments – and the potential economic blow to Boston of key medical staff being lost to the borough.

Gary James, accountable officer for Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group (LECCG), told councillors the LECCG wants consultant-led maternity retained at Pilgrim, but pointed out the LECCG is only one party involved in drafting the Lincolnhshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).

The borough council overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday recommended to the council cabinet, which met on Wednesday, that it backs the continuation of consultant-led maternity at Pilgrim.

County health services are overspent by £60 million a year and the shake-up is aimed at balancing the books while creating a sustainable model of care for people living in a ‘dispersed rural community’.

Overview and scrutiny committee chairman Paul Gleeson said councillors accept the need for change.

He said: “I am convinced we cannot carry on as we are and we need to produce a service (that is) outcome led, fit for this century.”

The committee’s wide-ranging recommendation said the council should look at the financial impact on Boston of the STP proposals, ‘do all we can to encourage GPs to come into the area’ and encourage development of specialist units at Pilgrim.

Earlier, Coun Gleeson said health services are meant to be free at the point of delivery and based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

He said: “Forty per cent of our working population are on working tax credits. How is it free at the point of delivery if you have got no money and you have got to get yourself to Lincoln, Grantham or anywhere else?”

Councillors agreed to support the LECCG by attending an NHS organised Options Appraisal Event on January 25, at the New Life Centre, Sleaford.

Mr James said the meeting involves “scoring of proposals for major service change which will require full public consultation”.

On February 20, there will be a ‘clinical senate’ review of the major service change.

Public consultation begins in May following the county council elections.

As well as losing services, Pilgrim could gain an urgent care centre to take pressure off A&E, which is under pressure from people who simply don’t need to go there.

Mr James said: “Forty-eight per cent of people who come to A&E leave without any investigations or treatments.”