A new accident and emergency department for Spalding has taken a step forward.
The move, which could see the minor injuries unit at Johnson Community Hospital “upgraded” to a new A&E Local unit, is part of a blueprint for the future of health care in Lincolnshire.
The driving force behind it is the need to reshape services in a bid to stave off a projected £105million overspend in the next five years.
A review has been carried out by all health and care organisations, including GPs, mental health, nursing, hospital and ambulance services, as well as social care services.
The blueprint, put together by staff from all ten organisations involved, as well as the voluntary sector, carers and health watchdogs, gives some “high level options for change”.
And Lincolnshire County Council’s health and wellbeing board has now given the go ahead for the review to move to the next level.
Coun Sue Woolley, chairman of the board, said: “The board recognises that doing nothing about the current health situation is simply not an option.
“The best way to address issues such as budget shortfalls, problems with recruitment and making sure services are of high quality, is to put changes in place to the whole system, where everyone works together to make the most of the budgets available.
“The decision means that the next stage of work can start.
“This will be a large piece of work to look at how the ‘bigger picture’ could work on the ground.
“This includes looking at the buildings, staff, facilities and IT and infrastructure that each organisation has so some realistic options can be put together, including more specific site details, that the public can be consulted on.”
One of the main principles in the blueprint is the ambition to treat less people in major hospitals, including A&E – hence the idea of creating new A&E Local departments at more settings across the county, including minor injury units such as the one at Spalding.
The idea is to treat more people in the community, near to where they live.
It has been projected that the new A&E Locals could save the NHS in Lincolnshire between £36million and £43 million.
A spokesman said: “Most people using the major A&E centres in Lincolnshire don’t need to be there, but it is convenient and available 24 hours a day.
“By providing wide-ranging, round the clock services in community ‘neighbourhood’ teams, most people could be seen in these settings.
“Patients would only use an acute hospital for high quality, specialist treatment or in a genuine emergency, for example when they need trauma or cardiac treatment.”
The ideas from the review will now be worked up in more detail over the coming months, with the promise of broader engagement with patients and community groups before a full public consultation is held during 2014.