Hundreds sign online petition

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest (right), with Nigel Farage, UKIP leader and Brett Mclean

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest (right), with Nigel Farage, UKIP leader and Brett Mclean

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ALMOST 500 people have thrown their weight behind campaigners battling to save services at the Conquest Hospital from being cut or downgraded.

The Hands off the Conquest group set up an e-petition last week in protest against NHS bosses’ latest proposals.

Last Thursday members canvassed for support from the public and got overwhelming support, with almost 300 signing another petition and 200 members joining the group.

The move comes amid plans to change general surgery services, musculoskeletal and orthopaedic services, and stroke services at the Conquest and its sister hospital, Eastbourne’s DGH.

Last week campaigners also said some of the data in the consultation document, called Shaping Our Future, was inaccurate and misleading.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “We got almost 300 signatures on a petition against the planned cuts in emergency orthopaedics, emergency surgery and stroke, together with almost 200 members. Our main concern is that out of that number of people, less than 10 knew that anything was up to be changed. This is a public consultation in which the public do not seem to have been consulted.

“We were fortunate in that on that day the leader of the UKIP party Nigel Farage was in town and came along at the bequest of Brett Mclean and assured us that we had their support, that of the UKIP party and the Federation of Small Businesses. We would ask all members of the public who have a Facebook page to ask their friends to sign our e-petition on www.handsofftheconquest.org/petiton. It takes seconds to do. If you believe that emergency services should stay at the Conquest help us in our fight and become members.”

Health bosses say up to 15 patients a day will have to travel either to Eastbourne or Hastings if their 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.

Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd is holding a public meeting on Shaping Our Future on Friday, September 21 from 6pm at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Marina, St Leonards. There will be a panel of speakers, including clinicians and representatives from Hands of the Conquest and Ms Rudd will chair the event.

She said: “I am organising this meeting so that residents can get all of the information prior to the closing of the consultation. It is a chance for the truth to be aired, so that the people of Hastings and Rye have all of the facts and fully understand what is being proposed so that they are able to make informed responses. My priority is that we get the best quality of care and health outcomes for residents and this meeting will enable people to listen to the facts and ask any questions that they may have about the proposals.”

The public consultation ends on Friday, September 28. More details can be found by logging onto www.esht.nhs.uk/shapingourfuture.