Friends slam Health Trust hospital plans

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A FUNDRAISING group which has 3,000 members and has donated millions of pounds worth of equipment to the DGH has slammed plans to centralise key services either in Eastbourne or Hastings.

The Friends of the Eastbourne Hospitals rarely speaks out on political issues, instead maintaining a support role. It is independent but has worked closely with East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the DGH, for a number of years.

For those reason the decision of its members to publicly criticise the Trust’s plans for the future of stroke, general surgery and orthopaedic departments will go down like a lead balloon among local NHS management. The Trust has long maintained the mooted move to single-site services is designed to drive up the standard of patient care, hoping to convince locals during the current consultation on the plans.

However, with the Friends weighing in firmly on the side of the Save the DGH campaign team, that job may have just been made a little harder.

In a letter to the Herald, Friends members criticised the Trust consultation document as “not only misleading but also inaccurate,” and warned that by centralising these three departments, the Trust risked starting a domino effect which could endanger maternity and other vital services.

A group spokesman, “These are very significant and serious proposals that will have far-reaching and long-standing consequences. Should they go ahead it will be much easier to deliver single-siting of obstetrics since the principle of the single site will already be established. A domino effect, while a worst case scenario, is a distinct possibility and should not be dismissed lightly.”

Doubt was also placed on the motives behind the moves, with the Friends quick to point out the precarious financial situation the Trust currently finds itself in. “It is well known,” said the spokesman, “that the Trust has to identify significant savings in order to meet its financial targets.

“At the beginning of the strategic review, we were informed current methods of working were inefficient and rationalisation of services was implied.

Financial figures are glossed over, but it is inconceivable the Trust has not done detailed financial work on any of the proposals. It would not have been put forward unless savings could be made. It also claims these changes are broadly supported by the consultants and GPs. However, a leaked letter from the Eastbourne hospital consultants indicates the opposite.”

The Friends also suggested the Trust underestimated the numbers who would be affected.

They said, “The Trust makes a number of claims, principally it is a very small number of patients that will be affected. To do this, the Trust includes 310,000 out-patient appointments and 120,000 emergency department patients – this will distort all of the statistics. However in the case of general surgery it rises to 40 per cent of all cases (including day case surgery) and climbs to 76 per cent of inpatient general surgery patients. In orthopaedic surgery it is 25 per cent of all cases, climbing to 46 per cent of inpatient orthopaedic patients.

“These are not insignificant figures.”

The Friends conclude: “We cannot support the proposal to single site emergency and high risk general surgery, [stroke care] and orthopaedics. The consequences for the hospital without such provision have either been overlooked or played down. The Trust denies the potential domino effects, but fails to explain how they will be avoided. These consequences outweigh any advantage of single siting.”

For more reaction from the Friends visit www.eastbourneherald.co.uk