Pathology plans ‘put lives at risk’

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PATIENTS’ lives will be put at risk if a vital service is centralised away from Hastings, a hospital campaigner fears.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said it would be dangerous if pathology services were based in one laboratory for the whole of East Sussex.

The move has been proposed by consultancy firm KPMG in a bid to cut costs.

Mrs Williams raised her concerns at Wednesday’s hospital trust meeting at the Conquest.

She said: “We are continually talking about patient safety but the public has not been involved in consultation. Microbiology is considered a core service and we will fight to keep it here.

“I have personal experience with being misdiagnosed because the blood was not checked quickly enough. One member from microbiology has told me this will cause patient deaths.”

A letter of protest has been sent to the hospital trust chief executive Darren Grayson and the rest of the trust board members by the microbiology team.

In it staff fear infection rates like MRSA may rise due to the increased time to process samples, which would be subject to traffic and road conditions.

Bill Penn, senior biomedical scientist, said: “I have been in microbiology for more than 30 years and this proposal will have the potential to increase preventable infections.”

A spokesman for East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs both the Conquest and Eastbourne’s DGH, said: “We recognise the valuable work undertaken within pathology and acknowledge the discussion about a Sussex-wide Pathology Network has been unsettling for all pathology staff.

“The NHS is facing a highly challenging period over the coming years.

“There is drive to ensure we put quality and patient experience at the heart of everything we do while at the same time becoming more efficient and ensuring value for money.

“We have joined two other local NHS organisations in Sussex to collectively establish a Sussex-wide pathology network.

“A fundamental principle of any chosen model of Sussex-wide provision will be a requirement to continue to deliver and develop services to the highest quality standards, meeting the demand for an increasing volume and complexity of diagnostic services, to support clinical services across the whole locality at a reduced cost.”

The spokesman said options are currently being considered which will be presented to the hospital trusts in Sussex and a decision made early in the New Year.

He said: “We recognise the scale of the change is potentially significant and it is understandable that concerns are raised and staff are anxious.

“It has been our intention to involve staff and clinical colleagues at all stages of the process from ideas generation through to implementation and we will do more to communicate with staff as we move ahead.”