The final fight to save the DGH

Campaigners fighting controversial changes to the way vital emergency services are provided in East Sussex believe they can still block unpopular plans to move departments away from the DGH.

Last week management at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust revealed their intent to move emergency general surgery and emergency orthopaedics to The Conquest in Hastings – meaning patients from Eastbourne will potentially face a far longer journey for treatment.

NHS Sussex, the body which commissions services in the county, will be asked to approve the Trust’s new strategy later this week and if it decides to side with the DGH bosses, there will only be one final chance to stop the plans in their tracks.

That will come in December when the local health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC), makes its report on the plans. If its members are unhappy, they can refer the final decision to the health minister Jeremy Hunt.

And that is the option the team behind Save the DGH are hoping for.

The 12 HOSC members will go over the plans on December 13 at County Hall in Lewes and Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd and campaign leader Liz Walke want people to let the committee know how unpopular the shake-up is locally.

Mr Lloyd said, “HOSC has the power to refer the proposals to the secretary of state, who would then refer the changes to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

“It was precisely HOSC’s decision to refer the proposal to single site maternity services at the Conquest in 2007/08 which led to the proposals being blocked.

“We have already written to HOSC requesting them to refer the proposals to the secretary of state and we calling are calling for residents from Eastbourne and surrounding areas to back our fight to stop orthopaedics and general surgery being downgraded.

“The coalition government has made clear that any change in healthcare provision should be led by local clinicians and the public and it is precisely this pledge that the campaign team is focusing on to stop the proposed downgrade to DGH core services.

“Now the proposals have been confirmed, it is extremely important we once again show we are united in opposing them. Today we face losing orthopaedics and general surgery, but very shortly other departments will follow and it is quite likely that Eastbourne DGH will no longer be a fully fledged district general hospital in anything but name.

“We have started a petition and It is also vital people join us at the meeting on Friday at Eastbourne town hall from 6pm to find out how they can make a difference.”