CHANGES to Southlands Hospital, Shoreham, have been described by one councillor as “death by stealth”.
Adur district councillor Rod Hotton spoke at the first in a series of public meetings over the future of services at Worthing and Southlands hospitals.
“I have watched over the years as services have been eroded and reduced,” said Mr Hotton, also a member of West Sussex County Council’s health and overview scrutiny committee.
Phillip Barnes, however, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust’s medical director, said the future of Southlands, in Upper Shoreham Road, was completely secure.
“This is about changes to Southlands’ in-patient services; it is not about the future of Southlands Hospital,” he said.
Proposed changes to the hospitals include moving all in-patient services from Southlands to Worthing, moving ophthalmology from Worthing to Southlands, building two new laminar flow theatres at Worthing and closing the harness block at Southlands.
People at the meeting on Tuesday, February 8, were able to put their questions about the changes to a panel comprising Dr Barnes, head of ophthalmology, Masoud Teimory, clinical leader for the elderly, Dr David Hunt, chairman of the West Sussex GP Federation, Dr Katie Armstrong, and consultant Dr Rob Haigh.
Dr Hunt said: “I think this is the right thing to do for patient care.”
Not everyone at the meeting was convinced, though. The main area of concern was a lack of clarity on where new community beds, to replace those lost from Southlands, would be provided.
Worthing resident Sue Cook said: “We were hearing all this during the three years of Fit for the Future.
“We were never told where the community beds were going to be.”
Dr Armstrong said most of the beds would be in nursing and care homes.
Members of the panel were also asked whether community beds were a way of “passing the buck” when it came to funding patient treatment.
Dr Armstrong said the funding would “flow” from the health service to West Sussex County Council, and Dr Barnes said social services had been consulted on the plans.
Attacking the plans, Adur district councillor Liza McKinney said: “How realistic do you think your ideas are. Are you thinking of the next 10 years, not just tomorrow?”
Mrs McKinney did, though, say it was “lovely” to hear the ophthalmology department would be moved to Southlands.
Resident Peter Berry said: “I do hope that you really are listening to us, as we seem to have done all this during the KWASH [Keep Worthing and Southlands Hospitals] campaign.”