NHS bosses are being asked to think again about their controversial decision to run down local treatment of ear, nose and throat conditions at the Conquest Hospital.
Hastings and Rye Labour Party is pressing for health bosses to think again about their decision which, if implemented, would see patients from the Hastings area having to travel to Eastbourne’s District General Hospital (DGH) for treatment.
Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate and leader of Hastings Borough Council Peter Chowney points out: “This could mean old and often infirm people, and those with no transport, having to travel miles to an out-of-the way hospital for vital treatment. Children with ear, nose and throat conditions will have to be taken even further – to Brighton – for treatment.
“This is unacceptable at a time when people on low incomes are already struggling to make ends meet,” he says.
“It could result in many people who cannot cope with the difficulty and cost of travel going without surgery – with a big impact on the quality of their life.”
The local Labour party is urging members of the public to join its campaign to keep ENT services in Hastings. Currently around 500 operations a year are carried out locally.
“We will be launching a petition against these cuts and to keep services at the Conquest,” added Mr Chowney.
Campaigners point out the DGH is poorly served in transport terms with no direct bus services from Hastings and journeys likely to involve taking a taxi from the nearest rail stations at Eastbourne or Hampden Park. In addition, ENT specialists require patients to present themselves early in the morning for what is often day surgery.
Trust bosses have said that it was much easier to recruit and retain doctors if staff work between Eastbourne and Brighton. This persuaded the area’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CGCs) to back the ENT move.
But for Labour Hastings Borough councillor Mike Turner, who serves on the county council’s Health Oversight and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), it flies in the face of the policy of the CGCs to reduce health inequalities.
It was, he said, the thin end of the wedge: “How many more NHS services will be transferred from the Conquest on this basis? Hastings is the most deprived area in the county, but it is something that those who run health services won’t recognise.”
Recruitment of suitably trained ENT doctors is cited as the main reason for the change. This resulted in the East Sussex Healthcare Trust recently spending £1.5m on temporary staff to plug the gap.
Cuts to NHS funding have resulted in a slew of problems for staff and patients, say the Labour party campaigners, not least longer waiting lists.