Confusion over £87,000 heart scanner decision

A HEALTH campaigner has said they are baffled at the decision to splash out £87,000 on a new heart scanner at the DGH while health bosses plan to strip back parts of the cardiac department.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust announced last month that it planned to centralise some heart attack treatments away from the DGH.

From April the coronary care unit, which treats some emergency patients, will only see people between 8am and 5pm, meaning any locals needing interventionary help will have to travel more than half-an-hour in either direction to be seen.

Hospital bosses say the move will not endanger lives and denies the move is purely down to cost-cutting.

And this week it announced cardiac services at the DGH had been boosted by a new state-of-the-art echo cardiography machine, donated by the Friends of Eastbourne Hospitals.

The machine provides a wide range of information about a patient’s heart and is considered the most advanced way of investigating valvular disease, heart failure and congenital heart disease.

It can take 2D and 3D images of the heart muscle and valves and provides live high resolution imaging of the heart to allow special echo procedures to be performed by cardiologists and cardiac physiologists.

However, Save The DGH lobbyist Liz Walke is confused over an approach which seems to be investing in one area of heart treatment, while cutting back on another.

“It is perverse,” she said. “It does not make sense. Why invest in something which could be partly removed?

“It is sending mixed messages and I do not know what the public must think.”

One of the DGH’s consultant cardiologists welcomed the investment, despite the fact much of the heart treatments will soon be move elsewhere – with hospitals in Brighton and even Portsmouth and Ashford expected to help take up the slack.

Dr Lydia Sturridge said “The cardiology department at the hospital enjoys an outstanding reputation both nationally and internationally.

“We are very grateful to the Friends for this kind donation that further increases the quality of diagnostics and patient care.

“The new machine gives crisp high resolution views of cardiac structure and function that have not been seen so clearly in the past.

“It gives us access to faster accurate diagnosis and specialist care which reduces mortality and improves the patient well-being and quality of life.”

However, Ms Walke said the fact that heart care at the DGH enjoys such a high reputation made even more of a mockery of the decision to cut STEMI heart attack treatments after 5pm.

“A town this size deserves to have a full set of departments. Having one bit in one place and another elsewhere does not make sense.

“Once services are moved it will start a slippery slope. If STEMI can be moved then there is nothing to stop health bosses using the same formula to assess other departments.

“We have to fight these plans.”

More than 200 people met at a trust board meeting last week to protest against the threat to both the heart treatments and a maternity reshuffle.