Major changes proposed for the NHS have sparked fears that the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath could be ‘downgraded.’
Mid Sussex councillor Anne Jones helped to spearhead a successful campaign to save the hospital’s A&E and maternity units when they were threatened with closure back in 2000.
Now, she said, she fears the town could have another battle on its hands following proposals to shut accident and emergency departments, and maternity units, across the country as part of a major government-led campaign to save the NHS billions.
“I’m just worried that we are going to have to fight again for what we need,” she said. “I fear that even more services will be moved either to Redhill or to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton - with that city also needing facilities.”
Neurological services have already moved from Haywards Heath to Brighton, along with emergency stroke care.
She said there was already a shortage of hospital beds in the area and Burgess Hill, in particular, was facing a huge increase in population with additional homes being built in the district.
“The reason we are in this crisis where hospitals and ambulance services are not meeting their targets is because of the reduction in beds - where do you put the patients?”
She said she feared the government’s ‘sustainability and transformation’ plans for the NHS would see more cuts and more health service staff lose their jobs.
Many staff, she said, were already demoralised. “They are working their socks off and they are not receiving the praise they deserve.”
Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for planning, monitoring and paying for healthcare in the region, is currently liaising with other health groups to see what money-saving changes can be made.
However, accountable officer Geraldine Hoban pledged at a meeting earlier this month that there were “no plans to cut services. They are not looking to close A&Es or close beds.”
Nevertheless, proposals contained in the area’s ‘transformation’ plan include a focus on more care in the community and a bid to cut the numbers of people needing hospital admission.