DGH cuts move closer

CUTS to services at the DGH are a step closer this week after hospital Trust managers voted in favour of a proposal to “reconfigure” three key departments.

The managers say the changes would improve the quality of care offered at both the DGH and the Conquest in Hastings.

But opponents say they are playing with the lives of people in Eastbourne and across the county, and morale at the DGH is at rock bottom with staff fearing for their future.

“Substantial changes” look set to be made to general surgery services, musculoskeletal and orthopedic services, and stroke services.

This means emergency treatment and higher risk surgery for the above services will be based at either the DGH or the Conquest hospital – but not both hospitals

A host of other services, including maternity, paediatrics and cardiology, are also still under threat but the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both the Eastbourne and Hastings hospitals, has passed the responsibility to the board of NHS Sussex Primary Care Trust.

The Trust also wants to reconfigure trauma services at both hospitals which means A&E will be downgraded at either the DGH or the Conquest.

On Wednesday (June 6) the Trust board met to discuss Shaping our Future: The Clinical Strategy, an unpopular blueprint which could see a dramatic reduction in services at the DGH.

Managers voted in favour of the plans to alter the three services and if the proposal is agreed by the Board of NHS Sussex (due to meet as the Herald went to press on Thursday) the controversial changes will go to a 12-week public consultation.

Stuart Welling (pictured), the chairman of the Trust, said, “The Board have agreed the clinical strategy is the way forward and now we are moving forward to consider how we might implement that.”

The Trust said that basing these services at one hospital rather than two makes better sense financially, will attract a higher quality of staff and will also prove more efficient.

Andy Slater, the joint medical director, also denied the strategy is about saving money. He said, “This is about providing the highest quality service for patients, it’s not about downgrading.”

But the vote drew criticism from Liz Walke, the Chair of the Save the DGH Campaign, who asked the Board to provide some figures to back up their claims.

She said, “I would urge you to call an additional meeting as soon as possible to stop this process before you put people’s lives at risk with these drastic proposals.

“Some 50 per cent of people are going to be travelling further for treatment, that’s a huge amount.

“I have also spoken to a lot of staff at the DGH and not one of them thinks their job is safe and that’s a terrible place for an organisation to be.”

Mrs Walke also slammed the Trust for passing the decision on maternity and paediatrics to the NHS Sussex PCT.

She said the Trust has attempted to “sideline the issue” by passing it to the PCT, and Mrs Walke argued all eight core services which are threatened with major change should have been discussed by the Board as they provide the service.

In response Mr Welling said the other services should be considered by the NHS Sussex because it would affect the whole of the county.

He said, “It’s not about us skulking away from the decision, it’s about us taking the decision in partnership with organisations from Rye to Chichester.”