Travel adds to families’ heartache
2:42pm Wed Feb 27, 2013
More people from the Newark area are dying at hospitals in Lincolnshire, creating stress and heartache for families who have to travel back and forth to visit critically-ill relatives, according to campaigners.
Figures obtained by the Say Yes To Newark Hospital Campaign through a Freedom of Information request show the number of patients from NG22, 23, 24 and 25 postcodes dying at Lincoln County and Grantham hospitals more than doubled between 2008 and 2011.

The figure was 45 in 2008. It increased to 65 in 2009, 96 in 2010 and 114 in 2011. The latest figures show the number was already 80 for the first six months of 2012.

The campaign chairman, Mr Francis Towndrow, said: “This puts an enormous strain on those families affected and means they have to travel long distances to visit loved ones.

“Many don’t have their own transport, and if you are 85 it is not easy to get there on public transport. If you have a partner or loved one in a hospital it could be heartbreaking not to be able to see them.”

Mr Paul Baggaley, the campaign secretary, said: “There is a clear inequality of service. There are tremendous issues with people who could perfectly well be treated at Newark but are not.”

Last week the Advertiser reported a 34.5% increase in the number of Newark inpatients treated by United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust, which runs Lincoln and Grantham hospitals.

Mr Towndrow said taken together the statistics raised questions about whether the number of Newark patients being transferred to other hospitals was contributing to high mortality rates, for which both United Lincolnshire and the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Newark and King’s Mill hospitals, are being investigated.

Mr Towndrow said: “Did the influx of Newark patients affect or contribute to the high mortality rates?

“Are Newark patients disadvantaged and considered high-risk given the near two-hour ambulance transfer times?

“These are two questions with one solution — our hospital needs to have emergency services equal to or better than those to be found in towns of similar size.”

A spokesman for Sherwood Forest Hospitals said protocols were introduced last year to enable end-of-life patients to be admitted between 6pm and 8am at Newark.

Patients seen at the hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit can also be admitted under the protocols, providing they have a terminal illness and care plan in place.

GPs can also contact the hospital and agree an admission and plan of care.

The trust said planned deaths at home had gone up to 30% for the first time in many years, due to increased support offered by GPs, district nurses, social carers and carers from Beaumond House Community Hospice.

A spokesman for United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust said: “In the last few years we have implemented measures to respond to any increases in attendances and admissions. For example, we are focusing on reducing the length of time patients stay in hospital by ensuring patients who are medically fit are able to leave hospital in a timely manner.

“We have set up new discharge teams to focus on patients with complex needs and are working closely with other health and social care organisations to ensure patients who do not need to be treated in hospital can receive appropriate treatment in their place of care in the community.

“Patients from Newark who come to our A&E departments will be tracked throughout their hospital journey and we will ensure that wherever possible they are repatriated to Newark Hospital as soon as it is safe to do so.

“The local CCG is also setting up a number of initiatives designed to support patients to stay at home or get them home from hospital more quickly.”

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