ANGRY paramedics have voiced their concern for the first time over changes to services at the DGH which, they claim, is leaving an ambulance service which is overstretched.
NHS staff who spoke to the Eastbourne Herald anonymously complained that they needed more staff to be able to cope with the demand.
This follows the Herald’s story last week of two Chinese students who were knocked down by a car on King’s Drive just yards from the front of the DGH.
The 13-year-old girls were left with leg pain, facial injuries, as well as hip and knee pain.
But amazingly, instead of taking the teenagers on the short one minute journey to the DGH for treatment, the pair were taken by ambulance on a 20.4-mile journey to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings.
The story has provoked outrage and frustration among Herald readers.
One paramedic who spoke to the Herald said it was “a shame” the teenagers had endured the half hour journey to Hastings when it would have been far more logical to be treated in Eastbourne.
The paramedic said: “No-one wants to transport a child for 30 or 40 minutes when you can take them to a hospital in 30 or 40 seconds. It is a shame.
“The better services are now at Hastings, but it’s difficult for parents to get there and back.”
The changes were introduced back in May and has seen the DGH become a midwifery-led maternity unit and children can no longer stay overnight at the hospital’s Friston Ward.
Earlier this month the DGH also confirmed the implementation of the first phase of a new stroke service which will see all patients with a suspected stroke going to the Eastbourne hospital.
The Conquest Hospital is no longer admitting stroke patients and a patient taken to the Hastings hospital found to have had a stroke will receive initial treatment and then be transferred to the specialist stroke unit at the DGH.
The paramedic, who said some crews were travelling between 150 miles to 250 miles per shift, added, “Ambulances regularly overrun shifts due to travelling longer distances.
“It’s been ridiculous.
“If a woman has problems in labour or a child has to stay overnight we’re now transporting them over to the Conquest.
“I would say since that since April ambulances are not staying in their areas at all.
“It’s stretching the ambulance service to a ridiculous level. They need more ambulances on the road.”
A member of the Patient Transport Service, which can take certain patients to and from hospital appointments, told the Herald, “We have seen major changes in the transportation of stroke patients and have witnessed at firsthand the distress it causes to both patient and relative.
“We are bringing more patients from the Hastings area and further afield to Eastbourne.
“These patients haven’t got a clue where they are going and the relatives and carers are most concerned about the amount of travelling they must do to visit their loved ones and the great cost financially in making the journeys.”
A spokesman for the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said that they were keeping a close eye on the service changes implemented at the East Sussex Hospitals Trust and any impact they may have on their resources, including 629 front line staff in Sussex who include 322 paramedics.
He said, “We support safe services and we are working closely with our colleagues in the NHS to ensure patients receive the treatment they require while the temporary changes are in place.”
He explained that the number of transfers between the DGH and Conquest hospitals were slightly higher than last year. “However, in the context of the number of total journeys we make each year, they are very low,” he added.
The spokesman explained that in addition to hospital transfers, there were also agreed clinical pathways so clinicians would not necessarily take patients to the nearest hospital after assessment and treatment, but instead to the hospital with the specialist skills to manage their specific needs. For example Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton is a Major Trauma Centre and the DGH and Conquest hospitals are trauma units.
“This trauma pathway has existed in East Sussex since April 2012 and exists separately to the temporary changes at ESHT. The pathway ensures patients receive treatment from trauma specialists as quickly as possible without the need for a separate transfer from a local hospital.
“Similar pathways also exist for stroke where patients in the Eastbourne and surrounding area would receive specialist treatment at the stroke unit at the DGH.
“There are operational procedures to determine which hospital a patient will be taken to for the most appropriate treatment. Our staff can use reference cards which form part of their clinical guidelines and can also access advice from a senior clinician in our Emergency Operations Centres or the duty Clinical Operations Manager.”