Herald Opinion: Have your heart attack before 5pm!

If you have the misfortune to suffer a heart attack in Eastbourne, make sure you have it before 5pm.

That seems to be the absurd message from the NHS Trust which pays for treatment at the DGH.

This week it has come to light the NHS Sussex Primary Care Trust for the area wants to scrap round-the-clock emergency treatment for the majority of heart attack victims in Eastbourne.

Patients will instead be forced to travel to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings and risk a journey on the notorious Marsh Road, one of the worst traffic hotspots in the county.

Or, as the PCT has helpfully pointed out, they could find the emergency care they desperately need in Brighton (20 miles away), Ashford (41 miles away), Portsmouth (59 miles away), or Frimley, (89 miles away).

Understandably the news has been met with incredulity and disgust from health campaigners and MP Stephen Lloyd.

The spiralling cost of NHS treatment is obviously an extremely complex issue and one which has vexed, and continues to confound, some of the finest minds and keenest intellects.

But for all of the cost implications one simple fact remains, emergency care has to be available within a reasonable geographic area.

Surely in the immediate aftermath of such a life-threatening and traumatic health episode, would anyone be reassured to know that they, or their nearest and dearest, could face an 89-mile journey for treatment?

Put simply, it appears the need to cut costs and achieve financial targets is being put before vital emergency health care.

The proposals seem all the more ridiculous when you consider they are not supported by the highly-respected cardiologists at the DGH, and the separate NHS Trust which runs the hospital has poured in extra funds to improve the coronary services in Eastbourne.

Save the DGH campaigners have vowed to fight the plans, which could take place as early as spring 2012, and also the recently exhumed and extremely unpopular plans to slash maternity services.

In 2006 people-power stopped a similarly dreadful scenario, namely stripping down maternity services at the DGH, and it seems the people of Eastbourne are back in familiar and thoroughly depressing territory.

Let’s hope we have the same outcome and vital services at the DGH are left well alone.