Campaigners trying to save hospital services launch a further protest

From left to right: Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, Sarah Owen, Cheryl Davies, from Hands off the Conquest, and Nick Perry
From left to right: Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, Sarah Owen, Cheryl Davies, from Hands off the Conquest, and Nick Perry
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HOSPITAL campaigners battling to save services at the Conquest from being cut have protested against NHS bosses’ latest proposals.

Members of Hands off the Conquest staged the demonstration in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre at the same time hospital managers held a meeting with shoppers and passers-by to explain their plans to change general surgery services, musculoskeletal and orthopaedic services, and stroke services.

But health bosses have admitted up to 15 patients a day will have to travel either to Eastbourne or Hastings if the proposals come into effect.

General surgery deals with abdominal organs, such as the stomach and intestines, and the higher risk and emergency work will be based at either the Conquest or Eastbourne’s DGH.

Emergency orthopaedics, such as fractured hips, would also be centralised at one or the other hospital, similarly with stroke services.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands of the Conquest, said: “We have had members of the public coming up to us worried that the Conquest will close eventually. They all think it’s about saving money.”

Sarah Owen, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, said: “I am against any cuts to services at the Conquest and it’s ridiculous for people to have to travel more than an hour to hospital in Eastbourne. I have worked with stroke victims in the community as a healthcare assistant and the difference between private care and that of the NHS is huge. Any reduction in services will have a detrimental effect.”

Nick Perry, the LibDem’s parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, said: “I can’t see how the plans for siting these important services in one location are going to lead to the benefit of everyone because the ones they (managers) are talking about all require fast responses.

“I am worried that decisions have already been made at a higher level and the kind of consultations we are seeing now are a token gesture.”

Hastings MP Amber Rudd recently voiced her support for the Trust’s plans.

She said the survival rates for stroke patients in the area were below average and believes the proposed changes will save lives.

But the MP has pledged her support for health campaigners fighting to keep consultant-led maternity at the Conquest.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest and DGH, believes the changes will improve the level of healthcare at both hospitals and provide stroke patients with specialist high quality care, 24 hours a day, as well as reduce the number of cancelled operations.

Dr Andy Slater, the Trust’s joint medical director, said: “We want every operation to go ahead on time as planned and every patient needing emergency diagnosis and treatment to be seen and treated swiftly by skilled and expert doctors. We want everybody who has had treatment to get the right support afterwards to enable a strong recovery in good time. These goals are not currently achievable and we want to change that.

“Staff at both Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital work incredibly hard to provide excellent care. This is about improving our services so we can do even better.”

Wednesday’s event was one of a series of public events throughout the county that are being held with times and venues being publicised locally as well as on www.esht.nhs.uk/shapingourfuture.

The Trust also intends to hold a number of meetings with local politicians, public representatives and organisations with a particular interest in health services.

The 14-week public consultation, called Shaping our Future, ends on September 28.

A spokesman for the NHS in East Sussex said: “We are pleased so many people took the time to find out more about our proposals for improving these three areas of care. We spoke with well over 150 local people and their views and questions will help us make the decisions.

“This is about giving people the opportunity to ask questions and take part in the discussion. Together we can shape a better future for healthcare in East Sussex.”