Local hospitals

Almost everyone I know has gone down with a bug in the last few weeks, either a horrible cold - which in the case of men is, of course, ‘flu - or a nasty stomach illness.

Large parts of Britain have experienced their coldest December for 30 years and winter lurgies have put our NHS services under unusual pressure.

The South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust - which serves West Sussex - has received over 4,000 more 999 calls so far in December this year compared to the same period last year.

This equates to a 15 per cent increase in demand - almost 10 percentage points greater than the rise planned for by the Trust for this time of year.

This additional demand on services comes at a time when increasing activity levels, particularly in accident and emergency, are leading to rising hospital costs in West Sussex.

The Royal West Sussex NHS Trust said that it was experiencing higher levels of activity than originally commissioned by the Primary Care Trust, and expected to receive around £2 million additional income in 2008-2009 as a result.

They've needed additional beds, clinic and theatre sessions and more agency staff.
The PCT might conclude that this is another reason to rationalise services so as to move treatments out of hospitals.  But it's equally a reminder that the demand on existing services is rising, which is why they need to be maintained, not cut back.

This week the trusts which run Worthing and St Richard's hospitals agreed to merge from 1 April next year.

I've made clear that I'll support this plan if, and only if, it means that both hospitals will retain consultant-led A&E and maternity services.

Because as the demand for hospital services rises, the idea of having just one fully fledged A&E department for the whole of West Sussex is as silly as ever.

Michelle Taylorhospitals