Group plans for protest at hospital

HEALTH campaigners will vent their frustrations over plans to downgrade key services at the DGH with a demonstration before a meeting of the trust which runs it.

Liz Walke and her Save the DGH colleagues will be outside the hospital in Kings Drive from 7.30am on Wednesday hoping to bend the ear of the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust’s hierarchy as they turn up for the trust’s annual general meeting.

The beleaguered NHS provider is battling mounting financial pressure amid efforts to find upwards of £20million in savings and the Herald revealed just last week that NHS Sussex had decided to centralise vital 24-hour heart attack treatment at the DGH’s sister site in Hastings.

That move has seen widespread criticism from Eastbourne’s MP Stephen Lloyd as well as Mrs Walke and her band of lobbyists.

And, on top of the threat to some coronary services, the controversial issue of revamping maternity cover in East Sussex has also reared its ugly head – just five years after thousands marched on Eastbourne seafront calling for the trust to abandon plans to move consultant led maternity to the Conquest.

Mrs Walke is urging Herald readers to show their support. She said, “We are very concerned about the maternity review being carried out by the trust which runs the hospital which we think may result once again in downgrading the local unit.

“It is almost five years to the day that people marched in protest at proposals to downgrade our local maternity unit.

“We fought these proposals and eventually in September 2008 the secretary of state for health agreed with us and said the local NHS must not do this.

“Now we have been told that emergency treatment for heart attack victims is not going to be done at the DGH with patients being taken to the Conquest from next April.

“If you speak to anyone with medical expertise even they agree that this must remain at both hospitals.

“There has been no consultation on this and as far as we are aware even the local doctors are unaware.

“We are extremely concerned and will fight any plans to downgrade the DGH or take away any core service it provides for the people of Eastbourne and all the surrounding towns and villages.

“We need local people to say we are still here and we will fight to protect our core services.”

The trust maintains there are no plans to downgrade maternity at the DGH but it has ordered a review of the department, leading to fears cost-cutting measures could be introduced.

Campaigners will meet on the green outside the hospital grounds by the roundabout for 7.30m and the demonstration is expected to last less than half an hour.

See next week’s Herald for a full report of the trust’s AGM as well as reaction from Save the DGH.