Cautious welcome for possible A&E reprieve, but the fight continues
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has given a cautious welcome to news that A&E services may be retained at all three hospitals in West Sussex, but has warned that the fight for full local services continues.
This week the chief executives of the West Sussex Primary Care Trust and the two trusts running St Richard's in Chichester and the Worthing & Southlands hospitals issued a joint statement indicating that a new proposal put forward by local clinicians was under consideration.
The trusts said that the new model "would provide a range of A&E services, critical care, surgery and acute medicine on two hospital sites (St Richard's and Worthing) whether the site is the major general hospital (MGH) or the local general hospital (LGH)."
The Board of the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals Trust also confirmed this week that "as now A&E, planned surgery, unselected medical admissions, outpatient services and day case care are all to continue" at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
Currently the Primary Care Trust's formal proposals for consultation would result in full A&E services being retained at only one of the three hospitals.
The joint statement from the trusts said that the new model was a "positive development", but it also said that that further work was needed, and that it would have to be "put forward for consideration by Sir Graeme Catto and the Options Assessment Panel."
Nick Herbert gave a cautious welcome to the development: "This could be very positive news for the local community. At last it seems that the Primary Care Trust may be relenting. If A&E services are now retained at all three hospitals, it will be a victory for people power, demonstrating that our campaigning, letter writing, petitions and marches have all had an effect."
But the MP warned that, while the Brighton & Sussex University Trust had stated that the existing level of A&E services should be retained at the Princess Royal Hospital, this was by no means clear in relation to St Richard's and Worthing. The Princess Royal Hospital's A&E department has already lost trauma cases to Brighton under the ‘Best Care, Best Place' changes introduced two years ago.
All the trusts involved are also continuing to insist that maternity services should be centralised onto one site in West Sussex.
Mr Herbert said: "We don't yet know exactly what level of A&E cover is being envisaged at St Richard's and Worthing under the new option. Nor is it certain that the option will be taken up, and the threat to maternity services remains. We are beginning to win the battles, but the fight to retain full local hospitals services continues.
"The Primary Care Trust has still to make its decisions on this matter. So I urge everyone in the local community, if they have not done so already, to respond to the formal consultation, reject all three options put forward by the Trust, and express support for retaining full A&E and maternity services at all three local hospitals.
"The deadline is 9.00 am next Wednesday, 14 November, and it remains vital that the Primary Care Trust understands how strongly local people object to their proposals."
Speaking at a public meeting attended by 300 people in Henfield last week, Mr Herbert told the Primary Care Trust that it should abandon its original proposals. He said that the financial case for downgrading local hospitals had evaporated, local communities were united in opposition, and clinicians were increasingly speaking out against the plans.
The Trust's proposals also came under strong attack from Henfield GP Dr John Derrett and from Worthing consultant Dr David Uncles. No-one in the audience supported the plans.
Notes for Editors
1. West Sussex PCT's formal consultation on Fit for the Future closes at 9.00 am on Wednesday 14 November 2007.
2. The PCT and hospital trusts' joint statement can be seen at http://www.westsussex.nhs.uk/news-and-events/press-releases-2007/pr-november-2007/how-the-emerging-model-of-care-is-developing/.
3. The statement from the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals Trust can be seen at http://www.bsuh.nhs.uk/about-us/news-and-media/press-releases/06-november-07-public-statement-fit-for-future-consultation/.