MPs unite for DGH campaign

THE fight to save key services at the DGH has begun with Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd already pestering the health minister to prevent vital departments being downgraded.

As revealed in last week’s Herald, a leaked document showed East Sussex Healthcare Trust plans to centralise a host of services at either the DGH or its sister site in Hastings.

Departments under threat include maternity, paediatrics and stroke care while the overwhelming majority of surgeries will be earmarked for just one of the two hospitals.

The Save the DGH campaign group promised to rally its forces and do all it could to oppose the plans, which will be officially recommended to the trust’s board at a meeting on June 6.

Mr Lloyd has written to the Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley, asking that he intervene, if necessary, to protect the DGH.

He said, “Since the news broke I have received calls, letters, emails and even been stopped in the street by residents, assuring me just how determined they were to keep our hospital safe in the long-term.

“Five years or so ago, then Secretary of State Alan Johnson overruled senior managers at the hospital trust when they tried to down-grade maternity services at DGH. I am appalled to discover almost identical plans are back, along with worrying proposals on paediatrics, general surgery, orthopaedics and others.

“I’ve contacted Mr Lansley so he is kept aware of what may be happening in Eastbourne. I have also contacted each of the other affected MPs in the area to ensure our campaign against any inappropriate cuts or downgrades to the DGH and Conquest are met with a united front. I am also seeking a debate in Parliament so I and other affected MPs can make their feelings known.”

“The town has pulled together before and I am sure they’ll do the same again, and the cross-party Save the DGH campaign team is already making arrangements to keep residents informed of the next steps.

“The board meeting is on June 6 where the proposed recommendations will be considered. I urge members of the board, particularly the non-executive members, to make the right decision and not take any actions that would have a potentially negative impact the DGH in the long-term.”

Mr Lloyd has been criticised by some for voting in favour of the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill but speaking out against changes locally.

“I realise some may feel the current situation with the DGH relates to recent changes to the NHS nationally,” he said. “However, the proposals locally are aimed to make cost savings for East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, just as they were five years ago, and while I and other members of the cross-party Save the DGH campaign group recognises there are serious financial considerations which, frankly, have built up over the years as a result of poor leadership, my priority will always remain Eastbourne, irrespective of party politics.

“We must ensure any proposed changes continue to maintain DGH as a fully-fledged district hospital long into the future.”

He has already received backing from Seaford MP Norman Baker who said the proposals risked creating a two-tier health service locally. Mr Baker said, “The proposals are more severe than expected. Residents of Seaford and Polegate, particularly expectant mothers, will be horrified to hear about the sheer scale of the proposals.

“I will be steadfastly opposing any changes that will disadvantage them and will be taking this up with the health secretary personally. I will also work with Stephen Lloyd, to unite in opposition to the changes.”