The leader of Hastings Borough Council has spoken out against plans to shake up specialist hospital services in the town.
Speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday (December 19), Labour council leader Peter Chowney criticised East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust plans to consolidate more of its Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services at Eastbourne DGH.
The trust says the plans would see all the department’s day cases and planned surgeries moved to Eastbourne, affecting around 494 patients each year.
Cllr Chowney said: “I can appreciate why you need specialist centres but to have ENT services, which are often given to children, at Eastbourne rather than here, is a big disadvantage for Hastings.
“I will certainly be opposing that, I hope we will all be opposing that and I hope our MP will oppose it.
“I don’t think we want that to happen and I think we need to make it clear that it shouldn’t happen.”
Cllr Chowney had been responding to a question from Baird councillor Mike Turner, who sits on the East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) as a representative of Hastings Borough Council.
In his question, Cllr Turner (Lab.) criticised the trust’s chief executive Dr Adrian Bull for a response he gave during a HOSC meeting in November.
Cllr Turner said: “Does [Cllr Chowney] not agree with me that it was rather disgraceful for the chief executive, when I questioned him about this at HOSC, to say that deprivation isn’t relevant to this decision?”
At the time, Dr Bull said the proposals aimed to make the service sustainable due to issues with staffing. He said the majority of those affected by the proposals would be day cases and that outpatient services would continue at the Conquest.
Dr Bull said: “I don’t think the deprivation point is relevant to this service. Because the commitment that we have is to provide an ENT service that is of the right standard and right quality for the people of East Sussex and to make sure they have access to that service.”
This view, however, was not shared by Cllr Chowney. He said: “It obviously has something to do with deprivation. Deprivation is relevant to this.
“There are an awful lot of people in Hastings with children who can’t afford cars and can’t afford public transport particularly.
“If they have got a child in hospital in Eastbourne and they want to go over an visit, that is going to be difficult to get there. It is a long journey, it is expensive.
“It is unacceptable I think to relocate those services to Eastbourne.”