Calls for more transparency over Eastbourne DGH

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CAMPAIGNERS against cuts to hospital services have demanded transparency from Eastbourne District General Hospital bosses as they prepare to dismantle a potentially life-saving service.

The chair of the Save the DGH Campaign urges hospital bosses to lift the wall of silence over proposals to strip down pathology services in a letter to the Herald this week. Mrs Walke claims it will prevent onsite diagnosis of diseases such as meningitis which can kill within hours.

East Sussex Hospital Trust chief executive Darren Grayson, who oversees the running of the DGH and the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, has refused to answer questions about the plans from senior biomedical scientist Bill Penn and member of the public Colin Amess at two separate board meetings.

Mrs Walke wrote in her letter, “There has not been any debate in public in respect of this major change which appears to undermine essential services at our local hospital.

“All discussions have been in private board meetings or committees which does not reflect the transparency to which we have been promised.

“These changes which are proposed will seriously compromise how illnesses, such as meningitis,` are diagnosed. Added to which the adverse public health risk with infections, swine flu and the like, to me, are not acceptable.”

Mr Grayson told the Herald because the proposal was at an early stage, public discussion would reveal sensitive commercial details, such as how much it costs the trust to provide pathology services. This information could benefit competing service providers.

“We have made an initial decision that we want to look harder at pathology services and the way they work. But we have made no final decision and the board has said it wants more consultation on this issue,” said Mr Grayson.

The plans could see six hospitals across Sussex relocate the majority of pathology staff and equipment to a centralised hub, leaving a skeleton staff to carry out emergency tests at each hospital.

But Mrs Walke, Mr Penn and Mr Amess all argue the left-over onsite facilities will not provide microbiology diagnosis. Microbiology teams at the DGH and Conquest wrote a letter to the Herald, saying patients’ safety would be put at risk.

Mr Grayson said, “Quite rightly people are concerned about the changes which could mean changes to the way individuals work. It’s no surprise if you have spent your career doing a job in a certain way they might be worried and that’s a legitimate concern.”

He hopes the issue will be ready for public debate by early summer.