Herald Opinion: All is still far from well at Eastbourne DGH

One press statement talked of a rapidly improving hospital; the other gave an ultimatum and warned of fines or even closure of some services. You take your pick as far as Eastbourne is concerned but one thing is for certain. All is still far from well at the town’s under-pressure DGH.

The two very different versions of events emerged as the public relations machinery went into overdrive in a week when the Care Quality Commission took enforcement action against East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust for still failing its patients.

The CQC’s warning was stark and uncompromising. It detailed the trust’s failings in the “basic fundamentals” of helping patients to eat and drink, adding that there had been improvements but “not enough”. It went on to set a September deadline after which the threat looms large of fines or even closures.

The trust saw it differently, of course. Although apologising again to those who had suffered below-par care, it talked confidently of the lifting of two of three warning notices slapped on it in March.

And it insisted that the speed of some of the progress had been because its new management team had identified the majority of the issues ahead of the CQC.

So where does all that leave the patients?

We shall know in two months’ time. The CQC is still in its infancy and keen to show its teeth. The trust, meantime, hints that much of the criticism is about poor documentation and record-keeping rather than the actual standard of care.

If so, the remedy should be within its grasp. If not, it could be a gloomy onset to autumn and a dire winter if the PR skirmish of this week turns into a battle with the town’s maternity services in the front line.

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WE can expect our share of ups and downs in these austere times. The “down” for Eastbourne this week felt more like a retail freefall as a series of familiar High Street names stared into the abyss.

But let’s not over-react. Already, shop closures and empty units are fewer in Eastbourne than almost any other part of Sussex. And with a new town centre plan in the pipeline, who would bet against TJ Hughes getting a new lease of life, under a new name? A top end of Terminus Road without a TJ Hughes would be grim indeed.