Hospital Cuts Mean ‘Care at Home’

NHS bosses in West Sussex have revealed more details of cost-cutting plans which have enraged protesters who fear the loss of A&E and other services. West Sussex Primary Care Trust (PCT), which officially comes into being on 1 October, will cater for 762,000 people. But unless changes are made to the county’s hospital services, it will have a £94m deficit by 2008. The PCT said on Tuesday it wanted to treat more patients in local urgent care centres or in their own homes.

It said 87% of patients using A&E were not life or death emergency cases.

“The intention would be to have the centres open at times when there is most demand, bearing in mind that we are not reducing the availability of the ambulance service or out-of-hours GPs,” said chairman David Taylor.

Several options are being considered, which could leave St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, Worthing Hospital or The Princess Royal at Haywards Heath without acute services such as A&E and surgery.

All the options include closing acute services at Brighton General, Crawley and Southlands in Worthing. In July, more than 400 people marched through Bognor Regis to protest at any downgrading of St Richard’s. Mid-Sussex District Council has said it wants to see services at The Princess Royal retained.

The PCT said it was looking to provide more services in patients’ homes, such as community matrons, to prevent them having to go to hospital at all.

John Mills, 71, who has an incurable lung condition had to go to hospital seven times last year because he was unable to breathe. Since January, he has had fortnightly visits from community matron Gemma Smith, who has taught him to control his breathing and medication.

Since then he has been to hospital only once for an overnight stay.

“The number of bed days saved has been quite a number,” said Ms Smith.

“John doesn’t want to go to hospital – he would rather stay at home with his friends and family so it is hugely rewarding.”

A public consultation on the hospital options gets under way next month, with a final decision expected in 2007.