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Children’s lives at risk in shake-up of ENT services

The Labour Party has uncovered damning evidence that the proposed shake-up of Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services in Hastings will make it less, not more, safe for patients. As opposition to the “unjustified” move mounts among doctors in Hastings and Eastbourne, Labour Party member Rick Dillon shares his concerns.

The proposed shake-up will see ENT operations carried out at Eastbourne District General Hospital rather than the Conquest in Hastings as at present (Proposed shake-up of hospital’s ENT services, Hastings Observer, 30 Nov 2018).

Thus children suffering acute emergencies, such as bleeding from a tonsillectomy, would no longer be treated at the Conquest but sent to Eastbourne. “This could be dangerous if they’re bleeding badly,” a source at the Conquest told us.

Greater safety was one of the arguments put to East Sussex County Council’s Health Oversight and Scrutiny Committee, which agreed to support the move by East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT).

A senior clinician told Labour that safety was one of a number of factors that make the proposed reorganisation unjustified:

  • There are only basic paediatric services at Eastbourne (unlike in Hastings), making ENT surgery for children at Eastbourne less safe.
  • Three of the on-call ENT doctors at Eastbourne are about to retire, which means there will more specialist doctors in Hastings.
  • Brighton Hospital Trust say they do not have the spare capacity to help out – one of the justifications for the move to Eastbourne.
  • Uckfield Hospital, unlike the Conquest, will continue to offer ENT day surgery. But it is not equipped to handle medical emergencies of any kind. In the event of complications clinicians there have been told to dial 999!

The real reason for the shake-up appears to be a ‘beggar my neighbour’ move by the Trust.

In order to free up space for ENT operating theatres in Eastbourne, gynaecology services would have to move out: to Hastings. This is being opposed by gynaecology consultants in Eastbourne who have refused to cooperate with the Trust’s bosses.

Their action alone could delay the transfer of ENT services from the Conquest to the District General Hospital, planned to take place from 1 April.

It would make more sense, we were told, if a specialist ENT centre for East Sussex remained in Hastings. But equally there should be daycare and emergency services at Eastbourne.

00PeterCIn December Peter Chowney, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hastings & Rye, launched a campaign to keep ENT services at the Conquest.

He told the Hastings Online Times: “When I launched the campaign to save ENT services at the Conquest Hospital back in December, I was concerned about the loss of these services from Hastings & Rye, and the problems that would give to people who have no car, particularly if they have children who need ENT surgery.

“But this new information from sources at the Conquest Hospital is even more worrying – it seems that it’s now not just about inconvenience and access to services, but also about safety and quality of care.

“Senior clinical staff at the Conquest Hospital have not been formally consulted about these changes. East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust must put this decision on hold until the concerns of hospital staff have been taken into account.”

The party has launched an online petition to urge ESHT to abandon its plans.

Posted 12:11 Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 In: Health Matters

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