Cancer unit not fit for use say Uckfield and Punnetts Town patients

Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH) March 11th 2013 E11036P
Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH) March 11th 2013 E11036P

Two women who say ‘brilliant and dedicated’ ward staff are helping them battle serious cancers fear that delayed plans to improve the unit might be put on hold.

Chair of Heathfield Parish Council Pat Clark, from Punnetts Town, was successfully treated for cerebral lymphoma and Frances Beard, 71, from Hunters Way, Uckfield, is currently in remission from chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Pat Clark - cancer sufferer concerned about money donated to refurbish cancer ward in Eastbourne not used for that purpose

Pat Clark - cancer sufferer concerned about money donated to refurbish cancer ward in Eastbourne not used for that purpose

Both were treated at the Eastbourne District Hospital’s Pevensey Ward. Although they praise the treatment they received they say conditions are poor and deteriorating.

They point out a four-year Friends fundraising resulted in more than £800,000 - due to be match-funded by the Trust - towards major improvements. But time and time again, they say, work has been put back, while other capital projects have gone ahead.

Frances said: “I feel very strongly about it. So many people have organised events and donated money specially for this ward. Some will not gain any benefit as they are no longer with us. Others still need the services of that ward. It is no longer fit for purpose. Patients and staff need to know what is happening and when.”

Pevensey is the major unit to which patients from Uckfield, Heathfield and surrounding areas will be referred for many cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy.

Frances said: “There are not enough plugs for chemo units, there’s a health and safety issue with men and women sharing a toilet in the day unit and only two side wards having their own facilities, a real source of cross-infection.”

Pat Clark points out staff must file notes in appallingly cramped conditions, there are not enough chairs or beds and hardly any privacy for patients being given serious health information.

She raised £1,500 for ward improvements and said: “Staff at the unit work under a great deal of pressure. In the present surroundings it is a miracle no mistakes are made. That is due to long suffering staff being dedicated to their work. They deserve better - as do their patients.”

They have written to their MPs and the Trust chief executive. A Trust spokesman said: “The development of the Pevensey Unit is a priority. We agree the service needs to be re-provided for patients, community and staff.

“We have explored a number of options to take forward this development including working with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust who are finalising plans for a radiotherapy unit on the EDGH site which could also include a new haematology/oncology unit.

“Implementation of our clinical strategy means we are also considering using other wards which may become available after service transfers. Funds donated to the Trust for Pevensey are set aside in our charitable funds. We have also ring-fenced extra capital funds to be used for the redevelopment whichever option is pursued. We are committed to the development of the Pevensey Unit and as soon as we have an agreed option, timescales can be confirmed.”