Specialist hospital services in East Sussex could be set for a major shake-up, according to proposals to be considered at a meeting next week.
Currently East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT) splits its Ear, Nose and Throat services between Conquest Hospital in Hastings and at the Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH).
But in an NHS report – to be considered at the county’s Health Overview and Scrutiny committee on Thursday (November 29) – health leaders now say this arrangement is ‘unsustainable’ due to medical staffing shortages and funding pressures.
In order to address these concerns, ESHT plan to transfer all of the department’s day cases and planned surgeries to the DGH, in a move expected to affect around 494 patients per year.
Commenting on the plans, an East Sussex Healthcare spokesman said: “Our aim is to provide clinically safe and effective services that are sustainable in the future.
“Over the past number of years it has been increasingly difficult to do this in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) due to medical shortages.
“This has impacted on the ENT out-of-hours service, our ability to manage waiting times effectively and deliver effective medical training which has resulted in the loss of trainee doctors further impacting the viability of the service.
“We have taken a number of actions to safeguard patient safety with the use of temporary staff but this is an unsustainable position.
“Currently, adult inpatient and emergency ENT is provided at Eastbourne DGH along with ENT out patients provided at both Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH. This will continue to be the case.
“These proposals would provide a clinically safe and effective ENT service in the future across East Sussex.
“They would ensure workforce sustainability; increase the quality of training for junior doctors, securing further trainee doctors to deliver resilience in on-call rotas whilst helping to reduce waiting times for patients.”
According to the report, the service ran at a deficit of £1.7million in the year ending March 2018 and at a deficit of £987,000 in 2016/17.
The report also recommends directing children who require emergency Ear, Nose and Throat treatment to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, rather than either Conquest Hospital or the DGH.
This would affect around nine patients per year, the report says.
A small number of low-risk patients will continue to be offered treatment at Uckfield instead of any other centre.