Herald Opinion: DGH... no negotiation on issues of life and death

While his frankness is refreshing, Darren Grayson’s stark message in the Herald today makes for sobering reading.

“We need to look at one hospital on two sites,“ he said. Was there ever a clearer indication of the battle that lies ahead?

We wouldn’t doubt there could be advantages in the DGH and the Conquest at Hastings working more closely together. Nor that in some areas of non-acute care, the patients might even get a better deal from a single centre of expertise.

But the merging of services such as maternity and cardiology is simply not acceptable. And neither is the very real danger in this scenario that one of the two hospitals would end up as a satellite or outpost of the other.

Demographics suggest that Eastbourne would lose out to Hastings on the maternity front and that would lead to the nightmare scenario - deemed unacceptable by an independent review just four years ago - of expectant mothers in need of urgent care being rushed along the precarious Marsh Road.

Sadly for Darren Grayson, he will be seen - as he describes it today - as one of the “big bad wolves” of the NHS. And there is some truth in his assertion that the operation he inherited had been slow to put its financial house in order in this past five years.

The trust had lurched from one crisis to another and is now needing to find £100m of savings, £30m of it this year alone.

There is pressure on the wards, too, with the continued demand for improvement in patient care and a further assessment from the Care Quality Commission looming before the year’s end.

Perhaps we can take comfort from Mr Grayson’s assurance that both towns will keep their general hospital status. Equally, it is obvious that we are being conditioned to expect some enormous change.

Campaigners must be wary of being pulled into horse trading; you can keep cardiology, for example, if you concede on maternity. On issues of life and death, there should be no negotiation. Two into one just will not go.

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THERE were two early Christmas gifts this week for Eastbourne shopkeepers. They came in the shape of reduced seafront parking charges for winter, along with the promise of a new market for the town.

Good to hear that the penny (or 20p for two hours to be exact) has finally dropped with the powers-that-be. Maybe the omens are good for an even bigger gift from the county hall Christmas stocking when it finally comes clean next month on the results of Eastbourne’s parking review.

And encouraging, too, that traders look to be welcoming the idea of a market rather than opposing it. Perhaps the season of goodwill is already upon us.