Stroke care set to be lost at Conquest

Hospital campaigners outside yesterday's meeting
Hospital campaigners outside yesterday's meeting

The Conquest this week came out on top of the East Sussex NHS service carve-up but looks almost certain to lose its specialist stroke care.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust’s board of directors voted on Thursday to push ahead with controversial plans to concentrate orthopaedics and general surgery at the Conquest, while centralising the expert stroke department at Eastbourne’s DGH.

This means hundreds of stroke victims each year could be forced to travel 20 miles along the coast for vital treatment and health campaigners have criticised the trust’s decision, arguing the extra journey time created by the shake-up could bring terrible concequences.

For its part, the trust maintains the changes will actually improve the standard of care and, discussing the concerns over potential delays in starting stroke treatment, its management maintained it would be better for future patients to arrive slightly later but see a specialist sooner.

The magic 45-minute cut-off point for treatment to have the best possible chance of being successful could still be met, claimed a spokesman for the trust, but it was not an oppinion shared by Hastings councillor Mike Turner.

The outspoken politician pointed out that for every minute a sufferer remains untreated, around 1.5million brain cells were destroyed. He said: “These cannot be given back. I do not believe these chances will enhance people’s ability to recover. People are not statistics.”

Darren Grayson, the trust’s chief executive, pasionately defended the plans and attempted to quash suggestions this wave of changes would culminate in a domino effect with other departments quick to follow in their footsteps.

And he said that, far from being driven by cost-cutting, the option being pursued for stroke care would actually see additional investment in the service.

However, the trust’s financial team did admit that the changes would lead to significant savings overall.

If NHS Sussex backs the trust’s proposals the last hurdle for the plans will be convincing members of a health and overview scrutiny group which could, in theory, refer the decision to health minister Jeremy Hunt.

Margaret Williams was at the three-hour meeting on behalf of Hands Off the Conquest. Speaking outside aterwards she said: “This is a small victory for Hastings but a disaster for East Sussex.

“We want core services to remain on both sites and will continue to fight these plans.”