Changes to pathology at DGH ‘not up for discussion’

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HOSPITAL bosses have taken the next step towards stripping down a vital service at Eastbourne District General Hospital behind closed doors, dismissing concerns for patient safety.

Senior biomedical scientist Bill Penn, who spoke out against the proposed changes to pathology units – mainly processing blood tests – across Sussex, was told the issue was not up for discussion at the last East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust meeting on December 15. But after the public had been ejected, the trust, which runs the DGH and the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, approved plans to centralise the hospitals’ pathology laboratories for full evaluation – potentially delaying diagnosis time on superbugs like MRSA.

A spokesperson for the trust said the decision was taken in private because of its ‘confidential nature’.

Staff from pathlabs in the DGH and the Conquest Hospital criticised the trust’s consultation in a letter to the Herald, calling consultancy firm KPMG’s assessment inefficient, costly and poorly researched.

Liz Walke of the Save the DGH Campaign who also attended the meeting said proposed changes, leaving a skeleton staff at the DGH for emergency tests, could delay diagnosis of life-threatening conditions with ‘untold consequences’.

She said, “He (Mr Penn) was not even given the opportunity really. He literally squeezed in a few words, but certainly they did not allow him to say much.

“I think it was completely underhand. It’s our national health service and they are taking decisions behind closed doors which they shouldn’t do. I think it’s a clear breach of the act because it’s a clear change in the way they work.”

The ESHT, Sussex University Hospitals and Western Sussex Hospitals, running six hospitals across Sussex, have all agreed to the principle of centralisation and each trust is expected to rubber stamp the option by early summer.

A spokesperson for the ESHT said, “A fundamental principle of any chosen model of Sussex-wide provision will be a requirement to continue to deliver and develop services to the highest quality standards, meeting the demand for an increasing volume and complexity of diagnostic services, to support clinical services across the whole locality at a reduced cost.”