Nick Herbert seeks clarification on hospital proposals

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert quizzed the West Sussex Primary Care Trust at a meeting in Pulborough on Thursday afternoon (14 February).


At the meeting, held in public, the PCT Board was discussing the ‘Fit for the Future' proposals.  During a ‘question and answer' session, Mr Herbert raised several concerns for the Board to consider.

1. The MP asked the PCT Board to spell out what level of A&E services would be provided at each hospital.  PCT Chief Executive John Wilderspin agreed that this was needed and said that local clinicians would now take the lead in communicating to the public on this issue.

2. Mr Herbert asked the PCT to explain why there was a case for centralising maternity services but not A&E services.  Mr Wilderspin said, once again, that local clinicians would be asked to respond to these concerns and explain the case for centralising consultant-led maternity services in West Sussex.

3. The MP asked the Board to take Sir Graeme Catto's advice and abandon the labels of ‘MGH' and ‘LGH' to describe new hospital services.  Mr Herbert argued that these were a source of division for the three hospitals in West Sussex.  Mr Wilderspin agreed, saying that the PCT had been using these terms for the sake of continuity following the closure of the public consultation.  He indicated that new terminology would be adopted.

4. Mr Herbert asked whether the PCT had taken into account the proposal for an ‘eco-town' at Ford.  He said that between 5,000 and 20,000 homes could be built, placing a significant new demand on local services.  Mr Wilderspin said they had not factored-in the additional houses, but would do so if the Government approved the construction of a new town at Ford.

During the meeting, the Board received the latest report from Sir Graeme Catto, President of the General Medical Council and independent chair of the PCT's Options Assessment Panel.

Under the PCT's original models of care, only one hospital in West Sussex would have had full consultant-led A&E services.  The other two hospitals would have had downgraded urgent treatment centres or minor injuries units.

The Board accepted Sir Graeme's recommendations to take six options forward to the next stage.  It agreed to take ‘particular account of' the model of services put forward by local clinicians - allowing all three hospitals to retain consultant-led A&E services. 

It was agreed that Options A and C, which would see the Princess Royal Hospital at Haywards Heath downgraded to a community hospital, would be looked at "more critically" than other options on the table.

The Board also agreed that access would be one of the key criteria for decision-making.

A decision was made to review services provided in the North East of the county.  Sir Graeme Catto was appointed to lead the review, which would take nine months and begin in April 2008.

The PCT conceded that there had been shortcomings with the consultation process but formally agreed that they had met their legal obligations to consult with the public.

After the meeting, Nick Herbert commented: "The PCT has taken a step in the right direction, but it needs to answer these key questions about its revised proposals.  People are relieved that A&E services could be reprieved at all of our hospitals, but they are in the dark about exactly what level of services will be provided, and there is continuing concern about plans to centralise maternity services.

"It's important that the PCT explains the new proposals and continues to take on board what the public is saying about maintaining local services."



Notes for Editors

1. The Board papers for the West Sussex PCT on Thursday 14 February can be seen at

Alexander Black