Cutbacks at the Conquest: nothing has changed since the last time in 2008

IS it really 2012 or have we travelled back to 2008?

It seems we are going down the slippery path again where the Conquest Hospital faces the possibility that it could become nothing more than a cottage hospital (page three).

Proposals are, once again, being put forward to cut back on key services at either the Conquest or Eastbourne DGH, almost 20 miles away.

The threat that full maternity services at both hospitals could be downgraded also looks to be a very real possibility.

A hospital without such services might as well not be a hospital at all.

Four years ago campaigners from Hands off the Conquest and their Eastbourne counterparts, from Save the DGH, held huge protest marches in their respective towns and sent a loud clear message to NHS bosses saying ‘Hands off our hospitals’.

They won the day when the then Secretary of State overruled NHS managers’ plans to base full consultant-led maternity at either the Conquest or DGH.

But now it looks like downsizing is again rearing its ugly head.

Nothing has changed in four years. The road between Hastings and Eastbourne is still congested and it can take up to 40 minutes or longer to reach either end.

This time could mean the difference between life or death for someone who needs emergency treatment or higher risk surgery, but may to travel almost 20 miles to get it.

On the flip side we can breathe a sigh of relief that there are no plans to close A&E at either the Conquest or DGH. In defence of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, the thinking behind specialist care is based around trying to create centres of excellence.

Health experts argue that patients are better served when services are centred in a hub, rather than being spread from town to town.

However there is no shred of a doubt that when the latest proposals go out to public consultation, people will be out in protest.