Specialist Eastbourne and Hastings heart services could be moved to single site

Proposals to move specialist heart surgeries to a single hospital in East Sussex are due to be scrutinised next week. 

Top: Eastbourne DGH, bottom Conquest Hospital in Hastings
Top: Eastbourne DGH, bottom Conquest Hospital in Hastings

On Thursday (December 2), the East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) is set to discuss NHS proposals to consolidate the county’s catheterisation laboratories — where angiograms, angioplasties and the implantation of pacemakers are carried out — into a single location.

Currently these acute services are provided at both Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH) and Conquest Hospital in Hastings, although emergency angioplasties already alternate between one site or the other during evenings and weekends. 

The NHS proposes closing one of the labs and moving the service completely to one of the hospitals, although it says it does not currently have a preference which one.

Other specialist cardiac services, which involve surgical procedures or investigations that may require an overnight or longer stay, would also move to the same site. The other hospital would retain acute outpatient and diagnostic cardiology services, however. 

In a report to be considered by HOSC, an NHS spokesman said: “We are not proposing to change the vast majority of our services, so there would still be cardiology care for anyone who needs it locally. 

“To make sure that the majority of patients receive good quality care close to home, outpatients, non-invasive diagnostics, cardiac monitored beds, cardiac rehabilitation and heart failure services would stay at both hospitals or in the community. 

“For the many patients who are referred to a consultant by their GP (for non-urgent cases) they would continue to be seen in outpatient clinics, which will still be provided at both hospitals and some clinics in the community.”

The proposals come from both the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT) and the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

While the proposals would see the cath labs consolidated, it is also planned to create emergency Cardiac Response Teams at both hospitals. These would support patients on their arrival at A&E.

Alongside this, ESHT would also establish ‘hot clinics’ at both hospitals, providing rapid consultant-led cardiology assessments for patients.

According to the NHS, the proposals come for a number of reasons, including workforce difficulties due the specialised nature of the service.

The NHS also argues the proposals would improve the quality of the service, as the current setup is making it difficult to consistently hit national targets. 

A national NHS improvement programme had also recommended the services be consolidated last year. 

HOSC is set to discuss the proposals to consider whether they constitute a ‘substantial variation’ to health services within the county. If so, it would then undertake a detailed review of the proposals and make recommendations.

During the same meeting HOSC is also to consider changes the NHS plans to make to how it provides its ophthalmology services in East Sussex.

The service,  which is to do with diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders, currently operates across three sites: Bexhill Hospital, Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH. 

The NHS plans to move day and outpatient services out of Conquest Hospital to Bexhill Hospital instead. The ophthalmology services at Eastbourne DGH would not be affected by the change. 

The proposal also would not affect unplanned or emergency care. This means emergency and general anaesthetic surgical cases (including cases which require overnight stay) will continue to be delivered at Conquest Hospital.

The CCG and ESHT say the change is intended to reflect the increased demand for the service and to improve quality.

As with the cardiology proposals, HOSC will consider whether the changes would constitute a ‘substantial variation’ to health services within the county and, if so, undertake a detailed review of the proposals and make recommendations.