Save the DGH campaigners took their fight to Whitehall this week and raised their concerns with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The meeting comes after the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) agreed controversial plans to focus emergency orthopaedic surgery and emergency general surgery at the Conquest in Hastings. HOSC members also voted that acute stroke services should be provided only at Eastbourne DGH.
Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd met the Health Secretary to discuss the matter and was joined by local health champion Liz Walke and the campaign’s two clinical advisors Dr John Clarke and Dr Vincent Argent.
They put together a document which included a letter opposing the changes from the Consultants Advisory Committee at the DGH, the survey results of consultants and 42 local GPs. They also included letters from the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, the council and the petition signed by 37,000 local residents.
Mr Lloyd said, “Jeremy Hunt listened carefully to what we had to say. He said he would be contacting NHS Sussex to get their perspective and promised to get back to me as soon as possible with a response.”
Liz Walke added, “He seemed surprised that it hadn’t crossed his radar and was genuinely intrigued as to how the decision had been made following procedure. We were surprised that he had not known about over 5,500 handwritten letters to him in September by local people but we were pleased to be able to speak openly particularly as there weren’t any local NHS management present.”
Mr Lloyd explained the campaign group’s main objections to the plans remained unchanged.
He said the quality of the road and the distance between the DGH and the Conquest caused problems for fast transfers and visiting loved-one.
“Surely it is only right and sensible to allow a properly qualified independent body, such as the IRP, to make a decision of such vital importance to the local community.”
In response to the concerns raised by the campaigners, a spokesperson for East Sussex Healthcare, the NHS trust which runs the DGH, said, “We firmly believe our proposals will enable us to provide better quality care to the population of East Sussex as a whole for years to come.
“They will deliver better results for patients, better access to expert clinicians and better recovery rates.
“We also believe they help us to maintain two thriving major hospitals in Eastbourne and in Hastings.
“Our proposals were developed by local clinicians (including input from local clinical commissioning groups), in a long and exhaustive process with involvement from patient representatives, local people and other stakeholders, and have taken into consideration national best practice.
“While the number of patients affected by our proposals is relatively small, the improvements in the quality of care they would receive are significant.
“They will affect less than 1 per cent of people who use our hospitals each year.
“Fewer than 15 patients per day would need to travel further.
“ The vast majority of patients will not notice any difference as planned operations and procedures, day case surgery, out patient clinics, diagnostic tests and admissions.” for all medical conditions will continue as before in a patient’s local hospital.
“We want people in East Sussex to have excellent, safe and sustainable services for years to come and the HOSC confirmed that our decision to improve services is in the interests of local people.