Shaping the future of the DGH offers no threat to A&E

WE NOTED with concern Stephen Lloyd MP’s comments last week about A&E services at Eastbourne DGH. Mr Lloyd’s letter gave the impression these were under threat as a result of the changes proposed to the delivery of emergency general surgery and emergency orthopaedics. This is not the case.

As a result of national policy the most severely injured patients are taken directly to a regional trauma centre as neither Eastbourne DGH nor the Conquest Hospital have the speciality staff (neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, thoracic surgery, paediatric surgery) to look after these patients.

Across East Sussex last year only around 220 people were classified as suffering major trauma. To put this into context 120,000 people use A&E each year.

Trauma units support the trauma centre and under our proposals only one hospital would be a trauma unit. Having trauma unit status is not a pre-requisite for having a thriving A&E department, providing emergency care to the majority of patients.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has committed to investing in both A&E departments and medical assessment units, increasing the number of consultants available on both sites. The two A&Es will continue to treat approximately 120,000 people each year, split between Eastbourne and Hastings.

General surgical and orthopaedic emergencies form only a small proportion of the workload of consultants in a busy A&E. The vast majority of patients attending our A&Es each year will continue to be treated at the hospital most convenient for them.

Indeed the most unwell and medically-challenging patients with life-threatening heart, lung and kidney problems for example, that require immediate and expert medical help, will continue to receive that care in both our hospitals 24 hours a day.

Patients attending either of our A&Es will continue to receive appropriate treatment but may be transferred to another hospital if requiring urgent orthopaedic or general surgical operations.

Changes we are proposing for stroke, emergency general surgery and emergency orthopaedics are best for patients who will benefit from being treated in a specialist centre at either Eastbourne or Hastings.

These are patients who have suffered a stroke, patients with serious fractures needing an emergency operation, and those who need emergency general surgery for something like a perforated bowel. We estimate this would mean fewer than 15 people per day would need to travel further than they currently do.

No decisions have been made about which site each of the three specialist services we are consulting on could be located should we go forward with the proposals.

There is a factsheet on our website about major trauma and A&E and we urge anyone with an interest in this issue to read it to ensure there are no further misunderstandings.

Dr ANDY SLATER, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust medical director, strategy

Dr ANDREW LEONARD, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust clinical lead for emergency Care

Dr JAMES WILKINSON, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust consultant in respiratory medicine and divisional director, urgent care