Time to declare disastrous 'Fit for the Future' exercise dead

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has welcomed the announcement by West Sussex Primary Care Trust today that it is suspending its decision to downgrade local hospitals, but has called on them to declare their 'Fit for the Future' programme “dead”.


The PCT's announcement follows separate meetings of the Boards of the Royal West Sussex NHS Trust and the Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust last Friday at which they agreed in principle to a merger to create a single acute trust.

The Boards believe that a merger will provide the best opportunity to achieve Foundation Trust status, a move that would give the new organisation more freedom and local accountability.

The merger may mean that, with equal status, both hospitals could retain consultant-led A&E, trauma and maternity services.

Commenting on the PCT's announcement, Mr Herbert said: "This appears to be brilliant news for local people who have fought to retain services at all our West Sussex hospitals.  It surely sounds the death knell for the hated 'Fit for the Future' plans to downgrade accident and emergency services, and hopefully it also signals that maternity services will be retained as well.

"Slowly but surely the people's campaigning, marches, fundraising and protests have been paying off.  At last the clear preference by local communities to retain a full range of services at their local hospital is being recognised.

"The public will, however, rightly ask why a plan to maintain services on both hospital sites through closer co-operation has not been considered before.  I shudder to think of the millions of pounds in NHS funds wasted on 'Fit for the Future.'  By pitching one hospital and community against another, this sorry, ill-conceived process deterred from the beginning the very co-operation which was needed to retain services at both hospitals.

"There must be no further uncertainty.  Staff and patients have endured three years of constantly changing plans for re-organisation.  'Fit for the Future' cannot be held on life support - it is time, once and for all, to declare this disastrous exercise dead.

"I would urge the consultants at both St Richards and Worthing hospitals to make a joint statement declaring their intention now to work together to ensure that key acute services are delivered on both sites.  If there is to be a united new foundation trust then I believe it should be called the 'St Richards and Worthing Hospitals Trust', demonstrating to all concerned that both hospitals will continue to offer a full range of consultant-led services, including emergency surgery, A&E and maternity."

The Boards of the Royal West Sussex NHS Trust and the Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust will meet again in December to plan their next steps following consultation with staff and key stakeholders.



Notes for Editors

1. The news release from the West Sussex Primary Care Trust can be seen at http://www.westsussex.nhs.uk/news-and-events/press-releases-2008/pr-october-2008/pct-puts-fit-for-the-future-decision-on-hold-while-trusts-move-to-merge/

2. The joint news release from the Boards of the Royal West Sussex NHS Trust and Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust can be downloaded at http://www.rwst.nhs.uk/about-us/news/press-releases/press-release-archive-2008/

3. On 23 July this year, the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee decided to refer the PCT's proposed changes to hospital services to the Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson.

4. For more information on the Fit for the Future programme, visit http://www.westsussex.nhs.uk/about-us/fff-nextsteps/fit-for-the-future/.

5. For the website of the Support St Richard's campaign, visit http://www.supportstrichards.co.uk/

6. For the website of the Keep Worthing and Southlands Hospitals (KWASH) campaign, visit http://www.kwash.org.uk/

7. For the website of Support the Princess Royal Hospital, visit http://www.supportprh.com/

Alexander Black