Horncastle councillors reject motion to oppose hospital proposals

Louth County Hospital.
Louth County Hospital.

Town councillors in Horncastle have rejected a call to directly oppose controversial changes at Louth Hospital.

Instead, they voted to seek more information about plans by the Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group which have sparked fears services at the hospital are being downgraded.

Town councillors were asked at their monthly meeting on Tuesday to vote on the following motion, put forward by Coun Dominic Hinkins.

The motion asked the council to resolve to:

• Recognise that the reduction from 50 beds at Manby and Carlton wards to 20 or 16 is a downgrade in local hospital provision which will not be sufficiently mitigated by the proposed changes to Neighbourhood Working.

• Call on the Government to prevent the loss of these beds, and to fund the NHS adequately so that Louth County Hospital is under no threat of being downgraded.

• Communicate our deep concern about the downgrading of provision at Louth County Hospital to Lincolnshire East CCG and to the County Council.

Coun Hinkins’ motion was not seconded.

Instead, councillors voted 11-1 to back an alternative motion put forward by Coun Fiona Martin.

While recognising the hospital is an ‘important resource which is much valued by the people of Horncastle’, Coun Martin stated more information was required.

She stressed no-one wanted the hospital to close and admitted she shared widespread concerns about funding for the provision for home care.

However, she maintained it was too early in the process for town councillors to vote, adding a public survey was still open and details of a ‘formal consultation’ programme had not been announced.

Councillors agreed to invite representatives of the Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group to their next meeting in November.

Hundreds of people attended a public meeting last Friday, organised by Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins.

The meeting was arranged after claims health chiefs had effectively gone back on a pledge to restore 50 beds in two wards at the hospital.

The number of beds was reduced last summer while essential improvements were carried out following a health and safety review.

Since then, the CCG has revealed it is considering two alternatives for the wards - 16 beds plus six chairs, or 20 beds plus six chairs.

Many people at the public meeting were opposed to either idea, saying it was another example of services at the hospital being downgraded - despite strong denials from health chiefs.

They stress the future of the hospital is not in doubt and say some patients would benefit from a system of ‘home care’.

Louth town councillors also met on Tuesday evening to discuss the same motion Coun Hinkins put forward at Horncastle.

Councillors agreed to support the motion, but only after making a number of amendments.

• More on this story in next week’s Horncastle News.