Clergy warning over health plans

CONTROVERSIAL plans to downgrade key services at the DGH will be discussed by the hospital’s management on Wednesday (June 6) and board members will be told to green-light the unpopular proposals.

The Herald revealed earlier this month that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has been working on plans to cut vital services at either the DGH or its sister site in Hastings, with maternity, paediatrics and stroke care among those earmarked for massive changes.

If approved, the plans would see a raft of services centralised at either hospital, with the other having to make do without consultants or, in some severe cases, any provision at all.

Surgery is another area expected to go under the knife if the board members vote as expected in favour of the scheme.

Campaigners have already spoken out against the leaked proposals and the Herald has been inundated with letters and emails from worried locals who are adamant any downgrading would be disastrous for the town.

Last week members of the local business community joined politicians in slamming the plans.

This week representatives of the local clergy have rallied behind the Save The DGH banner.

Speaking on behalf of many of his colleagues, Reverend Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes, told the NHS trust to think carefully before making any rash decisions that they may later regret.

He said, “We hope the decision-makers at the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust will think about the people of Eastbourne and their needs as their first priority, albeit with tight budgets.

“We hope poorer families, many dependent on public transport, will not have to travel to the back of Hastings to visit their sick relatives

“We hope that after years of muddle the people of Eastbourne and the dedicated staff of the DGH will have the well-managed hospital they need.”

And Martyn Relf, chairman of Churches Together for Eastbourne, was singing from the same hymn sheet. “In 2006 we successfully petitioned, lobbied and marched to save the Hastings and Eastbourne based consultant-led maternity services from being relocated to one site or the other,” he said.

“The decision to retain maternity services in Eastbourne came in 2008, the same year that was designated by the Christian Community as a year of Hope for Eastbourne.

“Four years on, the battle is re-engaged but we still have faith and once again, we will save the DGH.”

Save The DGH chairman Liz Walke, visited the Herald offices to discuss the campaign against the cuts. She revealed that plans are afoot for large scale protests later in the year but said nothing had been scheduled for Wednesday morning’s board meeting.

The meeting is open to members of the public and starts at 10am in the St Mary’s Board Room at the DGH.

Agenda papers will be available on the day or in advance online at www.esht.nhs.uk and for more information on the Save The DGH campaign. Email info@savethedgh.org.uk or visit www.savethedgh.org.uk. See next week’s Herald for a report on the meeting and reaction.