Calls for rethink over Eastbourne DGH bed closures

EASTBOURNE Borough Council has called on the PCT to rethink its proposal to close inpatient beds at the DGH's psychiatric ward.

The NHS East Sussex Downs and Weald and the NHS Hastings and Rother plans to cut the 122 in-patient beds at Eastbourne DGH and the Conquest in Hastings by 30. The proposal was met with concerns by Eastbourne councillors who raised their concerns at a council meeting in Eastbourne Town Hall on Wednesday night (September 15).

Councillor Greg Szanto said care for psychiatric patients was already 'inadequate' and 'inhumane'.

Cllr Szanto said, "The reality is the people who need inpatient care desperately need it. Sadly most are in prison and thousands and thousands are on the streets or living in accommodation which is completely inadequate.

"Suggesting we do not need these inpatient beds in nonsense.

"The strength of a community can be measured by the care it provides for its most vulnerable members. The most vulnerable group in our community, as it is in any community, is those suffering from acute mental illness.

"These vulnerable people do not have a voice and we must be their voice."

Cllr Szanto told councillors the reduction in beds was a cost cutting exercise and Cllr Gill Mattock said, "We should be increasing the number of beds and increasing the spend, not decreasing it."

The public consultation on mental health services in East Sussex says the reduction in hospital beds will only happen when the community is able to provide save and appropriate alternatives,

Liz Walke, chair of the Save the DGH Campaign and Eastbourne Borough Council's hospital champion, attended Wednesday's council meeting and raised her concerns.

She said, "No time limits were given to reduce inpatient beds and no time-scale given for 'improving community services'.

"We are currently told that community services are available but these are totally inadequate and are themselves being run down not expanded."

Cllr Szanto added, "The problem is they are going to close the beds without anything to put in their place."

Cllr David Tutt, leader of the council, supported the motion by Cllr Szanto and said, "I think it is right and proper for us to make representations to those who will be making the decision to cut hospital beds." And Cllr David Elkin added, "All the councillors have a duty to support the motion."

Councillors voted unanimously to support the motion.

The issue was due to go before the East Sussex Health Overview Scrutiny Committee as the Herald went to press.