Trade unionists furious at cutbacks threatening the DGH marched through the town centre on Saturday and now say strike action is on the table.
Hundreds of members of the GMB union rallied over “unfair and unreasonable” cost-saving measures that loom over Eastbourne’s District General Hospital. But the NHS trust in charge says their review is still underway and no decisions have been made.
Gary Palmer, GMB regional officer, estimated around 500 protestors turned out on Saturday (July 26), including members of the public, hospital employees, and union workers.
“The reaction we got from members of the public in the town centre was tremendous,” he said. “It’s left us with the feeling that the town is beginning to understand the threat to their hospital and we now need to build on that.”
And Mr Palmer said industrial action was a possibility, “We are a member-led organisation. If members decide they are passionate about protecting the services they deliver then striking will be on the table.”
Saturday’s march, one of the last community actions to set off from the pier before Wednesday’s fire, was in protest at one possible outcome of a money-saving review currently underway within East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.
The Clinical Admin Review, set to finish later this summer, takes a close look at how the administrative side of local NHS services are structured. The trust admits one possible outcome is that up to 200 staff may have to relocate to save their jobs. Workers feel this will irreparably damage healthcare services for patients, and will mean some workers will have to quit rather than relocate. On Saturday marchers rallied through the town centre before gathering at the Wish Tower for a demonstration.
Stephen Lloyd MP joined the protest. He said, “I remain profoundly concerned at the appearance of ever more jobs leaving the DGH and heading to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings. These are mostly administrative jobs and my fear is it follows the same pattern of more and more services being lost by Eastbourne. I think this is entirely wrong.”
Darren Grayson, chief executive of the NHS trust, said he was “fully committed to maintaining safe services across East Sussex.” He added, “A key part of this is having two thriving acute hospitals in Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital in Hastings.” Details of a public meeting will be announced by the GMB next week.