Lessons must be learnt from hospitals saga

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has welcomed the decision of the West Sussex Primary Care Trust to abandon its proposals to downgrade hospital services.

Mr Herbert was commenting after a meeting on Thursday 26 November at which the Board of the Trust accepted a recommendation that inpatient paediatrics, emergency surgery and inpatient maternity services should be maintained at both St Richard's and Worthing Hospitals.

The Board also accepted a recommendation to maintain consultant-led maternity services at the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath.

The move follows the amalgamation on 1 April of the Royal West Sussex NHS Trust, which managed St Richard's, and the Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust.

Nick Herbert said: "The whole community will be relieved at this decision to bury the deeply unpopular and damaging ‘Fit for the Future' plans to downgrade our hospitals once and for all. 

"Lessons must now be learnt from this unhappy saga.  First, this whole process has been a costly and wasteful shambles.  We first heard rumours that NHS managers were considering amalgamating hospital services three and a half years ago.  Since then, we've had not one but two consultations, delays and changes.  The public have been worried and staff morale damaged unnecessarily. 

"During a week when we hear that life-extending drugs are going to be denied to liver cancer patients, the waste of millions of pounds of NHS money on botched re-organisation plans makes me particularly angry.

"Second, there has been a total absence of accountability in this process.  The local PCT is unelected and answers to no-one, while Ministers claimed - incredibly - that the drive for mergers had nothing to do with them.  The original report by management consultants was kept secret for months before it was revealed.

"Third, for too long in this process, new service configurations were being discussed to accommodate revised working arrangements for doctors.  That was the wrong way around.  The driver for any health reforms should be what is in the interests of patients. 

"Finally, it was the tireless grassroots campaigns, the thousands in our communities who marched and the hundreds of thousands who signed petitions who made the difference.  Thank goodness that sense and people power finally prevailed."

The PCT Board's decision will be discussed at the next Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting in Chichester on 3 December.



Notes for Editors

1. The PCT Board meeting was held at 2pm on Thursday 26 November at the Hilton Avisford Park Hotel, Yapton Lane, Walberton, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 0LS.

2. The Board papers are available on the PCT's website at http://www.westsussex.nhs.uk/about-us/publication-scheme/meetings/board-meetings/board-meetings-2009/26-november-2009/.

Christopher N Howarth