D-day for the three under-threat DGH services is fast approaching – with the trust which runs the hospital announcing whether or not Eastbourne will lose stroke care, general surgery and orthopaedics to Hastings in little over two weeks.
Having finished public consultation, management at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust will reveal on November 15 which of the two hospitals will house the new-look departments. Campaigners locally have long-feared Eastbourne will lose out to Hastings because its rival is the most deprived town in the south east and argue that the upshot of concentrating services in the east of the county will be bumper journey times for local residents.
This, the Save the DGH lobby group claims, will put lives at risk and could lead to a gradual downgrading of other services at the Kings Drive site.
For its part, management at the Trust have always maintained any changes, however controversial, would not be driven by cost-cutting but instead be motivated by driving up the standard of care.
The argument goes neither hospital is in a position to attract the top clinicians, but that a joined-up department would.
Whatever decision the Trust ends with, the changes will be passed up the line to NHS Sussex for approval and Liz Walke, has promised to keep fighting if things go the wrong way for Eastbourne.
Local MP Stephen Lloyd has managed to secure a high level meeting with new health minister Jeremy Hunt, which will take place once the initial announcement has been made.
Mr Hunt was due in Eastbourne yesterday to speak at a conference on children and adult services but Mr Lloyd was keen to keep the campaigners’ powder dry until they were sure what they are opposing.
Mr Lloyd said, “I’m delighted the secretary of state has agreed to meet with me and the Save the DGH team. It is important that we meet after NHS Sussex has published its response to the consultation so we do end not discussing a number of hypothetical situations.
“If those findings are unsatisfactory we will be able to contest them, directly to the secretary of state.”
Ms Walke added, “I just hope the local NHS realise we mean business and will oppose any decision to remove any core service from our local hospital.”