Senior doctors say changes will improve care

FIVE senior doctors this week pledged that proposed changes to services at both the Conquest and Eastbourne DGH will lead to better quality care for patients.

Dr Andy Slater, medical director for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Drs Martin Writer and Joerg Bruuns, from Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group, and Drs Greg Wilcox and Roger Elias, from Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group, said the move will reduce cancelled operations at both sites.

But campaigners from both Hands off the Conquest and Save the DGH are furious over the controversial proposals which mean a specialist stroke centre will be based 20 miles away in Eastbourne and the DGH losing its emergency general surgery and emergency orthopaedics, instead being based at the Conquest. The majority of DGH doctors are also against the plans which were given the go-ahead by NHS Sussex last month.

A statement from all five doctors supporting the changes said: “We are adamant that we need to have two vibrant, major hospital sites in Eastbourne and in Hastings. To achieve this we need healthcare in East Sussex to be fit for 2012 and beyond, and that means we need to change some things.

“We are absolutely convinced that these decisions will not only enable us to provide better quality care to the population of the county as a whole for years to come, but will also very clearly demonstrate that we are willing to embrace the necessary change that will stand us in good stead for the future. We want to provide excellent, safe healthcare for every patient, every day of the year. People cannot choose when they become ill and in the current system we simply cannot maintain the best standards for every patient in East Sussex, 365 days a year.

“Currently vital therapy services for stroke patients are not always available seven days a week. Under the proposals they will be, as they will reduce the chance of planned operations being cancelled at the patient’s local hospital and help make sure more senior consultants are available for emergency general surgery.

“It is false to suggest to people in East Sussex that their local hospital is under threat. This is simply not the case. This will help us secure the future of both hospitals.

The number of patients affected by this decision is relatively small, but the improvements in the quality of care they will receive are significant. A&E, maternity, paediatrics, acute medicine, ITU and cardiology are not affected by this decision.

“We have worked closely with the ambulance service which supports our aim of improving the quality of care for local people.”

But Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said she thought residents in the east of the county had been left ‘abandoned’ with regard to stroke services.

She said: “We are not reassured that these patients will be able to access William Harvey Hospital’s CT scanner within an hour of a call-out following a stroke, let alone the target time within 45 minutes. No one has yet explained what happens for a patient who in the process of having a stroke, falls and fractures their hip. We feel that the only safe solution is to refer the whole process to the Secretary of State for Health with an Independent Reconfiguration Panel giving an unbiased opinion on the matter.” A health overview and scrutiny committee will discuss the plans on Thursday (December 13). Its members can decide to refer the decision to the health minister.