Fears over health cuts in Chichester are ‘unfounded’

Hospital bosses have moved to allay fears that looming multi-million pound spending curbs could mean cuts in the number of hospital beds and services at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.

Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust which manages St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands hospitals, this week reiterated the trust’s previous promise that it is ‘committed to keeping A&E, consultant-led maternity services, and emergency surgery at both Worthing and St Richard’s hospitals’.

This statement comes after the West Sussex health and adult social care select committee met at County Hall in Chichester, where director of strategy and provider development for NHS Sussex, Amanda Philpott, said the £2.6bn a year spent in Sussex was expected to remain constant in two years’ time.

This would mean to continue services as the trust does now, another £440m would have to be found.

“We are told we have to ‘disinvest’ £440m, which means cutting it from the budget, and we should use the word cuts instead of being opaque,” said Cllr James Walsh.

He said there is ‘no way’ this scale of reduction can be achieved without reducing beds and that the NHS was in danger of sleepwalking into a ‘fit for the future’ writ even larger.

He added: “A lot of these cuts will be extremely unpalatable, whether paediatrics, maternity or other services. We have to make sure the NHS engages with the public and explains what is proposed.”

There were also calls for major efforts to keep the public informed about what was going on.

Cllr Walsh said there was already talk about provision of paediatric services and the location of these services.

“It is possible they will no longer take place at St Richard’s and Worthing Hospitals,” he told the select committee.

But Mrs Griffiths said: “Both I and the rest of our board have publicly, and repeatedly, insisted that we are committed to keeping A&E, consultant-led maternity services, and emergency surgery at both Worthing and St Richard’s hospitals.

“That has not changed, and will not change.

“I can also be clear that we have no plans to move paediatric services from either site, and would not seek to do so.

“Having said that, we would always seek quality improvements to maternity and paediatric services.

“That is why we will be taking part in a Sussex-wide examination of best clinical practice in these areas, and so looking ahead we would expect that young patients will benefit from new and improved ways of giving them high quality care.”

Response from NHS Sussex

The NHS West Sussex, East Sussex Downs and Weald, Hastings and Rother, and Brighton and Hove primary care trusts have joined forces to become NHS Sussex. NHS Sussex is committed to commissioning high quality healthcare services for people in the county.

A NHS Sussex spokesman said: “As national guidelines and examples of best practice develop, we need to make sure we are up to date with these developments so our services deliver the best possible outcomes for patients.

“To help us achieve this, the NHS across Sussex is currently looking at examples of best practice in a range of services.

“This is happening through a programme called Sussex Together. Sussex Together involves hospital doctors, nurses and GPs from NHS organisations across the county, along with partners, discussing how services can be improved by working more closely together, and within the resources we have available.

“We know that these resources will stay broadly the same in coming years, at the same time as demand for services increases. That’s why we need to make sure that every penny is spent in a way that maximises benefit to patients.

“For example, by focusing on prevention and proactive management we can help elderly people enjoy a better quality of life and reduce the number of hospital admissions. For instance, if an elderly person falls over at home, they often don’t need to be admitted to hospital. By providing improved services closer to home we can help people maintain people’s independence, which is also a better use of NHS resources.

“The discussion at HASC was about how this programme is developing. It is our shared responsibility to do the best we can for the people of Sussex within the resources available.”