PLANS to centralise a key hospital service away from Hastings look set to become reality, much to the dismay of campaigners.
Bosses at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest Hospital on The Ridge, together with three other NHS trusts in Sussex, have recommended that pathology services be based in one laboratory for the whole county.
This would be based around 30 miles away at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
The proposal has now been ratified by a steering group, made up of representatives from the four trusts.
But campaigners fear patients’ lives could be put at risk.
Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “It seems everything is disappearing from the hospital.
“I was against this move because the staff in microbiology expressed concerns. I hope their views have been taken into account.”
Mrs Williams blasted the move when it was first discussed in December at a trust board meeting, saying there had been no public consultation.
In December a letter of protest was also sent to the trust’s chief executive Darren Grayson and the rest of the board by the microbiology team.
In it staff voiced fears that the rates of infections like MRSA could rise due to the extra time it would take to process samples further afield.
The option to centralise pathology was one of four proposed by consultancy firm KPMG in a bid to cut costs.
Other options included leaving things unchanged or privatising the service.
Under the proposal the Conquest would still do urgent and emergency testing of pathology results.
Mr Grayson said: “We will fine tune the details of the service and prepare the full business case for a final decision in the summer.
“I realise this is an unsettling time for pathology staff and there have been and will continue to be meetings with them to discuss the next steps and future plans.”