United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is looking at reducing the opening hours of its emergency departments because of a "severe shortage" of available doctors that is putting patient safety at risk.

The Trust says a national shortage of appropriately trained doctors to work in A&Es and that, along with other trusts in the east midlands, ULHT is seriously affected by this.

ULHT emergency departments normally operate with 15 consultants and 28 registrar or middle grade doctors but, at present, there are 14 consultants, of whom 10 are locums, and just 12 middle grades.

"We have reached a crisis point and we may put patients at risk if we don't act", the Trust said, adding: "Our staff are under enormous pressure and the situation is now unsustainable".

"We haven't made a final decision yet, and we hope to avoid this, but the reality is we will need to temporarily reduce the opening hours of A&E at Grantham," warned Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director at ULHT.

"Any temporary emergency closure is very concerning, whilst we are disappointed that we may be forced to take this action, we do believe that closing A&E at Grantham overnight is the best way to ensure that services for our patients remain as safe as possible," added Allan Kitt, Chief Officer, south West Lincolnshire CCG.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said that for some time now some local systems have become increasingly fragile due to the resourcing challenges.

"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," said its president, Dr Clifford Mann.