NHS Sussex charm offensive to win over public opinion

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NHS Sussex today launched a charm offensive in the face of widescale opposition to its plans to centralise key services from the DGH to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

The Trust knew its decision would not be welcomed following vocal opposition to the proposals from the medical profession and huge public protest.

Within minutes of the decision being reached, NHS Sussex was on the offensive.

In a statement released this lunchtime, the Trust said it belied the proposals will see enormous benefits to the standards and level of provision of healthcare in the region.

It believes the cash-saving proposals will:

Deliver a more reliable service, that is safe and of a higher quality with better outcomes for patients.

Provide stroke patients access to specialist high quality care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a dedicated team around them from the moment they come in to hospital, right through to their rehabilitation.

Reduce the number of cancelled operations therefore reducing the distress and huge inconvenience for patients and their families. 

Ensure patients needing emergency diagnosis and treatment will be seen and treated swiftly by skilled and expert doctors. 

Mean patients will get the right support to enable a strong recovery in good time.

NHS Sussex pointed out that these delivery options were agreed by East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups before the NHS Sussex decision.

Dr Martin Writer, Chair of the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group, said the improvements represented an upgrade for health services in East Sussex. He said: “Currently vital therapy services for stroke patients are not always available at weekends – now they will be. We also expect fewer cancelled operations and more senior consultants available for emergency surgery.”

Dr Roger Elias, Chair of the Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Local people in East Sussex deserve to have access to the very best, modern healthcare. These changes will deliver that.”

The next stage is the completion of a full business case which it is anticipated will be finalised early in the New Year.

In making their decision the NHS Sussex Board pointed out that it had received recommendations from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and from each of the three clinical commissioning groups in East Sussex. It also considered the independent report analysing feedback received from the public during the consultation and the recommendations of East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The decision-making was supported by a number of detailed documents including the outline business case; the options appraisal panel report and the equality impact assessment.

NHS Sussex published details of a report from the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT), who provide a pool of clinical experts to support, advise and guide the plans made by the local NHS.

NCAT stated: “We think it makes eminent sense to bring the stroke services together. Presently these are two small services which are not meeting the national standards. Whilst the facilities themselves are housed in modern buildings the main problem is a lack of workforce of sufficient size and expertise. Bringing the two units together should make a significant difference in putting stroke services on a more secure and sustainable footing’

“We think it makes sense for the surgical services to come together. It was surprising to us that this has not already taken place, and it was symptomatic of the problems the Trust has had over the last 10 years, bringing the two hospitals together.”

“Presently the surgical rotas are not sustainable ... There is a pressing need to get ahead and merge these services to create a single acute surgical site. This should have a positive impact on quality if, as expected, there will be better access to senior decision makers, ie the consultants, and when on call they are dedicated to the on call and not expected to have clinics at the same time.”

“The arguments for emergency surgery do apply to the changes for orthopaedics. Patients will receive a better service if the orthopaedic surgeons can concentrate on one site in providing a consultant led and delivered acute orthopaedic service, but again more work needs to be done in looking at the activity, case mix and patient flows.”

“NCAT can support the model of care proposed for stroke, general surgery and orthopaedic services.