Hastings and Rye Labour Party has launched a campaign to keep Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services at the Conquest Hospital.
The move comes after East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT) plans to transfer all of the department’s day cases and planned surgeries to Eastbourne’s DGH, in a move expected to affect around 494 patients per year.
Peter Chowney, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, said: “This is unacceptable at a time when people on low incomes are already struggling to make ends meet after years of austerity cuts. It could result in many people who cannot cope with the difficulty and cost of travel going without surgery, with a big impact on the quality of their life.”
The party is urging people to join its campaign to keep ENT services in Hastings. Currently around 500 operations a year are carried out locally, it said.
Hastings borough councillor Mike Turner, who serves on the county council’s Health Oversight and Scrutiny Committee, said: “How many more NHS services will be transferred from the Conquest on this basis? Hastings is the most deprived area in the county, but it is something that those who run health services won’t recognise.”
ESHT said it had become ‘increasingly difficult’ to maintain ‘clinically safe and effective’ ENT services in recent years.
A spokesman said the main reason was due to medical shortages, which had affected the ENT out-of-hours service, waiting times and impacted on the trust’s ability to deliver effective medical training, resulting the the loss of trainee doctors.
The spokesman added that ESHT has used temporary staff in the department in order to safeguard patient safety but such as use had become ‘unsustainable’.
Adult inpatient and emergency ENT is provided at Eastbourne DGH along with ENT outpatients provided at both Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH. ESHT said this will continue to be the case.
The spokesman said: “These proposals would ensure workforce sustainability, increase the quality of training for junior doctors, securing further trainee doctors while helping to reduce waiting times for patients.”
The ENT service ran at a deficit of £1.7 million in the year ending March 2018 and at a deficit of £987,000 in 2016/17.