VITAL services at Worthing Hospital will not be cut, despite a county council health meeting suggesting otherwise.
Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust which manages Worthing, Southlands and St Richard’s hospitals, has 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”.
She also said the trust had “no plans” to move paediatric care from either site.
Her words came after a meeting of the West Sussex health and adult social care select committee at County Hall in Chichester last week, at which it was stated multi-million pound NHS spending curbs could result in the loss of paediatric care, and possibly even A&E services at Worthing.
At the meeting, the committee considered a presentation on financial pressures facing the NHS, and heard the £2.6billion a year currently spent in Sussex was expected to remain constant in two years’ time but, if they continued to provide services as they did now, they would have to find another £440million.
Councillor James Walsh said the report was one of the most worrying and devastating since the NHS “fit for the future” exercise.
“We are told we have to ‘disinvest’ £440million, which means cutting it from the budget, and we should use the word cuts instead of being opaque,” he said.
Later in the meeting, he said: “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.”
He added 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 said.
“If this were to happen – and I can see a case may be made for it – there will be a knock-on for other services.”
He believed it was inconceivable A&E services could be offered at St Richard’s and Worthing if there were no paediatric services.
Amanda Philpott, director of strategy and provider development for NHS Sussex, said it was not about closing hospitals but saying how they should spend £2.6billion to best effect.
She agreed about the need for public engagement, but did not agree that this was about cuts.
Despite the somewhat gloomy predictions, Marianne Griffiths sought to reassure patients, stating: “Both I and the rest of our board have publicly, and repeatedly, insisted 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.”