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Lincolnshire hospital could shut at night.

Hospital bosses could shut an A&E department at night to combat a staffing crisis.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust says it is considering reducing opening hours at Grantham and District Hospital due to a severe shortage of doctors.

The trust said closing the Grantham A&E, rather than the departments at Lincoln County Hospital or Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, was the "safest option.”

A trust spokesman for the trust said failing to act "may put patients at risk.” The Royal College for Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said news of the potential closure was "disappointing, yet unsurprising".

Medical director at the trust, Dr Suneil Kapadia, said: "We haven't made a final decision and we hope to avoid this, but the reality is we will need to temporarily reduce the opening hours of A&E at Grantham. The quality and safety of patient care is the trust's number one priority."

He said that a recruitment drive in the UK and overseas and the offer of premium rates to attract agency doctors had failed to attract more staff, while £4m had been invested in urgent care services.

A trust spokesman said emergency departments at the hospital normally have 15 consultants and 28 registrar or middle grade doctors. However, it currently has just 14 consultants - 10 of whom are locums - and 12 middle grades.

The spokesman said that Lincoln County Hospital or Pilgrim Hospital both take more seriously ill patients and have a higher number of patients attending A&E and being admitted than Grantham.

The trust is working with other A&E providers, East Midlands Ambulance Service and clinical commissioning groups in an effort to avoid the closure at Grantham.

RCEM President Dr Clifford Mann said: "The great efforts made by doctors and nurses to help patients in under-resourced locations is sometimes not sustainable.

"As well as potentially putting patient safety at risk, placing an ever-increasing workload on overstretched staff can create a vicious circle in retention and recruitment, with many overworked trainees simply choosing to leave the country or indeed the specialty altogether.

"The wider picture is there is a real crisis in emergency medicine as our workforce numbers are not growing fast enough to keep pace with rising numbers of patients attending A&E Departments."