Herald opinion: A downgraded DGH would hardly be a hospital

A HOSPITAL without full maternity services, without orthopaedics, without provision for stroke patients or children’s wards – and maybe with only a token accident and emergency facility.

It would hardly be a hospital at all.

And yet that is the sickening scenario that Eastbourne is set to face

It was the news nobody wanted to hear – and we certainly didn’t want to write.

Four years ago, the people of Eastbourne stood shoulder to shoulder with those in Hastings to demand that controversial plans to take maternity consultants away from one of the town’s hospitals were kicked into touch.

Now it seems that those proposals are being revisited. The spectre of downsizing has once again reared its ugly head.

This time though, it is not just maternity.

A host of other services are under threat as well and while it would be irresponsible of us to make out the shake-up is a done deal, alarm bells are understandably ringing.

In defence of East Sussex Healthcare Trust, the national thinking surrounding specialist care is very much leaning towards establishing centres of excellence.

Evidence, the experts say, suggest that patients are better served when resources are pooled rather than spread thinly from town to town.

And this approach may well work in other areas. Nobody can blame the hospital trust for at least exploring other options. Not to change or modernise is clearly not an option.

However, the journey time between Eastbourne and Hastings will rightly create huge concerns.

The distance may only be a dozen or so miles but anyone who has ever driven that route will know it can take 40 minutes or longer. Forty minutes that could be the difference between life and death for someone who is unlucky enough to need the treatment earmarked for the other town.

Locals in Eastbourne will be particularly worried. A betting man would put money on Hastings being the town to come out of any carve up of services the better.

It is more deprived, has more young mums and is more distant from other medical centres than Eastbourne.

The fact remains though that Eastbourne is a town of nearly 100,000. It has an increasingly youthful population and, as our recent features on the DGH have shown, already places huge demands on the town’s hospital.

A prime example can be found on page 14. Friston Ward deals with huge numbers of young patients, both as day visitors or those that stay overnight. Part of the suggested changes are plans to have inpatient facilities for children on only one site.

Imagine being the family of a young child who is too sick to come home. Instead of facing a trip to the DGH, you may be soon asked to head all the way to Hastings. That cannot be progress.

There are some services that, because of a lack of demand in each town, it would make perfect sense to centralise. There is, after all, only so much money to go round.

But the extent of the recommendations seen by the Herald go far beyond these sparse examples.

The town needs to prepare itself for another fight – possibly the mother of all fights. Rest assured, the Herald , too, is ready for that battle.