Mum’s call to save Friston children’s ward

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A devastated mother whose daughter has leukaemia has spoken of her anguish after learning that changes agreed by NHS bosses means her sick child will not be able to stay overnight at the DGH.

As news of the decision spread worried parents have joined a Facebook group called Save Friston Children’s Ward at DGH and Sarah Smith has got in contact with the Gazette to say she was reduced to tears after hearing the news.

Her seven-year-old daughter Maisie has been a regular patient at the hospital’s Friston Ward. She said she was worried how she would cope with the latest move which will see the ward become a short stay paediatric assessment unit and therefore not provide the option for youngsters to stay overnight.

At a board meeting on Friday NHS bosses voted unanimously to centralise consultant-led maternity services at the Conquest in Hastings within weeks.

The preferred option was to maintain a consultant-led obstetric service, neo-natal service (including the Special Care Baby Unit), have in-patient paediatric service and emergency gynaecology service at the Conquest Hospital only and establish a stand alone midwifery-led maternity unit alongside enhanced ambulatory paediatric care at the DGH. This was all agreed on Friday afternoon when a meeting took place, which was attended by members of the public, including Liz Walke, chairman of Save the DGH.

Sarah’s daughter Maisie has been a regular visitor to the DGH since April 2011. She is under the main care of the Royal Marsden and the DGH provide her local care.

Sarah said, “For long term patients like Maisie, familiarity, and consistency are vital in helping them cope with traumatic, invasive and long term treatment. I cannot stress this fact enough. Maisie was five at diagnosis and she does not struggle too much with having to stay in hospital because Friston is a familiar place, she knows most of the staff and she even regards some of them as friends.

“Having leukaemia means she has a compromised immune system so is vulnerable to infections. As a result, quite regularly, we have to stay in hospital for IV meds and blood tests.

“She rarely gets upset about this and takes it in her stride, precisely because Friston feels like a safe place to her because she is so familiar with it. We call stays ‘sleepovers’ in hotel DGH, the nurses, housekeeping staff, ward clerks and doctors all know her and look after her so well. A further important fact is that if she spikes a temperature of 38, she needs to be in hospital and on IV antibiotics urgently, at the moment we have a six minute journey to hospital where she has open access to treatment so the ball starts rolling quickly.

“Well that journey will be half an hour at best to the Conquest, easily an hour in busy traffic.”

Meanwhile a Facebook group is calling on the community is hoping as many people as possible will join the group and spread awareness. Its message reads, “This group is to raise awareness about the horrible changes that are happening to our local hospital’s children’s ward (Friston Ward) we as a community rely on the DGH to provide medical care to us and our children when we are ill or hurt, recent changes are seeing our hospital change and not for the good!”

A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said, “Friston Ward isn’t closing. Our paediatric teams on Friston Ward and Special Care Baby Unit provide a high quality service, and the decision taken on Friday is in no way a negative reflection on the quality of care they provide. As a consequence of the move to temporarily single site obstetric care at Conquest Hospital, it means the neonatal service (Special Care Baby Unit) and paediatric in-patient care provided at Eastbourne will also need to move.

“Friston Ward will become a Short Stay Paediatric Assessment Unit (SSPAU) providing this service during the day, Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. At present these time are provisional and will be reviewed once the unit is operational. All out-patient care and day case surgery will continue to be delivered from Friston.”

PICTURED: Maisie Smith