‘Lives are at risk’ with move, says campaigner

PATIENTS’ lives will be put at risk if proposals to centralise a vital service away from Hastings, a hospital campaigner fears.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said it would be dangerous if pathology services were based in one location for the whole of East Sussex.

The move has been proposed by consultancy firm KPMG in a bid to cut costs.

Mrs Williams raised her concerns at Wednesday’s hospital trust meeting at the Conquest.

She said: “We are continually talking about patient safety but the public has not been involved in consultation.

“Microbiology is considered to be a core service and we will fight to keep it here.

“I have personal experience with being misdiagnosed because the blood was not checked quickly enough. One member from microbiology has told me this will cause patient deaths.”

A letter of protest has been sent to the hospital trust chief executive Darren Grayson and the rest of the trust board members by the microbiology team.

In it staff fear infection rates like MRSA may rise due to the increased time to process samples, which would be subject to traffic and road conditions.

Bill Penn, senior biomedical scientist, said: “I have been in microbiology for more than 30 years and this proposal will have the potential to increase preventable infections.”

A spokesman for East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs both the Conquest and Eastbourne’s DGH, said: “The NHS is facing a highly challenging period over the coming years.

“While we will continue to put quality and patient experience at the heart of everything we do we also need to focus on delivering efficiency across all the services we provide to ensure they are financially sustainable in the longer term.

“Local NHS organisations in Sussex have collectively established a Sussex-wide pathology network.

“The aim of the network is to provide efficient, high quality pathology services to the NHS within Sussex.

“A fundamental principle of any chosen model of Sussex-wide provision will be a requirement to continue to deliver and develop services to the highest quality standards, meeting the demand for an increasing volume and complexity of diagnostic services, to support clinical services across the whole locality at a reduced cost.

“To identify the most efficient model of pathology service provision within Sussex a project board has been established consisting of clinical and management leads from the three acute hospitals within Sussex.”

Several options are being looked at, one of which is to privatise the service and another to leave things as they are.

The spokesman said: “These are being considered and will be presented to the hospital trusts for approval and adoption and no decision on the preferred outcome is expected until the New Year.

“Pathology is a clinical support service and these changes will not impact on the front-line services our patients receive.”