HAVING attended the meeting organised by our MP Amber Rudd ahead of the public consultation regarding plans to remove certain specialised services, including those for strokes and emergency surgery, from either Hastings or Eastbourne hospitals, I find myself increasingly alarmed.
Much was made by the trust’s representatives of creating ‘centres of excellence’ for these specialties, and emphasis placed on the fact that no ‘planned procedures’ would disappear from either hospital, and that those who require regular attendance would still be treated locally.
That’s fine, but to me, the crucial point is, in the event of a heart attack, stroke, or other sudden physical disaster, having to be driven by ambulance to a hospital that is at the very best 45 minutes away if you live in the centre of either town, and worse still from, say, Ore or beyond - is not satisfactory.
It is, in fact, reckless on the part of the trust to even consider it. It’s our lives the trust is risking here. There is little point in being taken, as swiftly as the very poor and congested roads between Eastbourne and Hastings permit, to any centre that is remote, however excellent, if you are dead on arrival, to put it bluntly.
And we all know that, should the long-awaited link road ever be built, it will be quite useless for a large percentage of us who actually live in Hastings, in fact it will probably still create the kind of congestion found in Bexhill Road now where our own hospital is located.
It was clear that no one on the trust wanted to talk about this, and I was surprised by a faint hint of anger from one party that I had dared raise such an issue when I was finally granted leave to air my point of view.
Putting patients’ minds at ease
IN response to the joint letter from Margaret Williams and Liz Walke in the Observer (September 14), modern hospitals are complex institutions and it must be almost impossible for those who have not worked in them to have a detailed understanding of how the various parts function.
Liz Walke and Margaret Williams, while saying that they have no wish to make personal comments, criticise me for living in Eastbourne and working in the Conquest.
In effect they accuse me of deliberately putting patients at risk by my working arrangements, and cite the example of a patient with acute asthma who might need immediate expert attention.
In the first place I would point out that when I am working as an acute physician I am always on site and never more than about 90 seconds away from any of my patients.
For historical reasons I do also take part in the on-call physicians rota, when I am required to be available from home.
I am pleased to be able to reassure your readers that immediate expert medical attention is available, and will continue to be available to patients such as those cited by Liz and Margaret, by virtue of the resident on-call team of specialist doctors in medicine, emergency medicine and intensive care.
This team has the skills required to resuscitate and stabilise a sick patient: what a consultant physician can add to this team is the ability to sift complex information, interpret test results, and deal with uncertainty in order to make accurate diagnoses.
By definition, this skill set is required less urgently, and indeed can often be utilised by providing telephone advice rather than being present in person.
That is why my patients are not at risk when I am on call by virtue of the travelling time from Eastbourne to the Conquest, and why my employers are content with my domestic arrangements.
I am of course available for immediate telephone advice at all times when on call, and also have immediate access to telemedicine, which allows my virtual presence in the resuscitation departments of both hospitals, and which allows me to review x-ray and scan images immediately without the need for travel. I hope this will prove reassuring to all concerned.
DR ANDREW LEONARD
Acute and Emergency Medicine Clinical Unit Lead
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust