NHS - 'Fit for the Future'

On Monday the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority came to Westminster to brief MPs on their plans for the local NHS.

We were told that the 'regional' NHS deficit this year is forecast to be £90.5 million. As the SHA itself pointed out, this is only 1.86 per cent of the total budget - equivalent to a £465 overdraft for someone on a salary of £25,000.

However, reducing the deficits has been achieved by cutting services. Recently the Royal College of Nursing confirmed that West Sussex has seen 1,000 NHS job losses in the last eighteen months.

The SHA is planning to break even next year, which raises the question of why it still insists on downgrading our hospitals in West Sussex.

I asked the following question. East and West Sussex have roughly the same population and area. But in East Sussex, the formal consultation on the future of their local hospitals has already started, and the proposal is for two major hospitals with Accident and Emergency Units. In West Sussex, the consultation has been delayed until the end of June, and the proposal is widely expected to be for only one major hospital with A&E in the whole county.

What is the justification for this extraordinary unfairness? I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that one of the hospitals in East Sussex is in Hastings (Labour marginal seat, majority just over 2,000).

The answer contained a hint of encouragement. It appears that a two hospital option in West Sussex could now be considered. If so, this is a step in the right direction - and a testament to the impact of our hospital campaigns.

This week, St Richard's was rated one of the top ten safest hospitals in the country, and Worthing and the Princess Royal also scored highly. What is the sense in dismantling institutions which are amongst the best?

Michelle Taylor