Steyning Health Centre

Last Friday I opened the new health centre in Steyning.  Like the new surgery in Pulborough, it's an impressive new building, with extra space which will in future enable more treatments to be delivered locally.

The idea that doctors should travel to patients, rather than patients to doctors, must be right - provided that it doesn't become the excuse for centralising acute services such as accident and emergency and maternity.  These must remain locally accessible services.

As I said at the opening, having been at loggerheads with the Primary Care Trust for three years over their dismal ‘Fit for the Future' plans, it was good for once to be sharing a platform with them and welcoming a positive development in local healthcare for which they, together with Horsham District Council, are entitled to take credit.

If only we could put their discredited plans to downgrade our hospitals entirely behind us.  It's good news that the process is suspended, but when I tackled the Strategic Health Authority over the issue at a meeting in the Commons this week, they insisted that the ideas aren't yet scrapped altogether.

They should be.  There is simply no support for the centralisation of acute services onto one hospital site in West Sussex.  You can't beat geography, and the distances are too great.

In East Sussex, the Independent Review Panel has overruled plans to centralise maternity services, saying that consultant-led units must remain at Eastbourne and Hastings.  Why should West Sussex be different?

This week, the Health Secretary has suspended the independent review for West Sussex while the merger between St Richard's and Worthing is considered.

Frankly, it's time that local health officials admitted that their downgrading plans are a dead duck.  They should end the uncertainty and formally scrap them.

And then, as I warned the Strategic Health Authority, we can discuss who should be held accountable for this three-year wasteful shambles.

Michelle Taylor