United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust could face a legal challenge against its decision to partially close the accident and emergency department at Grantham and District Hospital.
Law firm Leigh Day has confirmed it is representing local campaign group SOS Grantham Hospital, which is fighting the closure.
The trust announced the decision to partially close the A&E due to patient safety concerns over a shortage of doctors earlier this month. Since 17 August the department has been closed overnight from 6.30pm to 9am. The closure is intended to last three months.
Leigh Day argue the decision to close the A&E was unlawful because it did not comply with guidance issued by the Department of Health around involving patients with changes in service delivery.
The case could be significant as trusts consider service reconfigurations as part of regional sustainability and transformation plans that are currently being developed.
Rosa Curling, human rights solicitor at Leigh Day, is representing the campaigners.
She said: “It is our opinion that the decision to close Grantham Hospital overnight for the next three months is unlawful. It was taken without proper patient involvement. Any decision to close an A&E department at a popular local hospital is a serious decision that clearly requires a proper consultation process.
“The people of Grantham are being denied vital services and we are now representing the SOS Grantham Hospital group in their fight so that the people of Grantham have a strong voice in the NHS decision making process. Their voice must be heard before any changes are made to vital local NHS services.”
Suneil Kapadia, medical director at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, said: “Due to a severe shortage of doctors, we had to make this difficult decision quickly, so it hasn’t been a perfect process. We didn’t act unilaterally and worked with NHS partners and other stakeholders where possible.
“As the closure is temporary and made quickly on the grounds of patient safety, unfortunately we were not able to consult the public. We are committed to involving the public and patients in our long-term plans and decisions.
“Over the next few months, we will be going out talking to ULHT members and community groups about Grantham A&E to understand how this is affecting people.”
This story was updated at 2.23pm on 24 August to include a statement from ULHT.
Information provided to HSJ