Doctors turned around ‘truly dreadful situation’

Doctors were praised for helping to keep Crowborough Hospital open
Doctors were praised for helping to keep Crowborough Hospital open

Doctors commissioning services in Lewes and Wealden turned around a ‘truly dreadful situation’ over the last few years, according to one county councillor.

The High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group (CGG), which covers Lewes, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Uckfield and Crowborough, took over planning services when the Primary Care Trusts were abolished in 2013.

East Sussex County Council developed a ‘Better Together’ programme with the aim of working with the county’s three CCGs, East Sussex Healthcare Trust (ESHT), and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to transform health and social care services so their combined resources could be used most effectively.

But the High Weald and Lewes Havens CCG pulled out of the programme at the end of 2015, as most of its patients used major acute hospitals outside of East Sussex, including those at Royal Tunbridge Wells, Haywards Heath, and Brighton.

Now the county council’s cabinet has agreed to develop a new programme ‘Connecting 4 You’ to work with the CCG to address the specific population needs and geographical challenges to NHS services in the High Weald Lewes Havens area.

At last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Richard Stogdon (Con, Crowborough) felt ‘regret’ the report was necessary, but added: “If you were a resident of the High Weald over the last five to seven years you would have well understood why the CCG has the priorities that it has, and you would also recognise as a resident now just how far they have managed to remedy a truly dreadful situation and the reason for their priorities in making the kind of improvements that have been made.”

He singled out maternity services as an area where improvements had been made and suggested that if ESHT, which runs Conquest Hospital in Hastings and Eastbourne’s District General Hospital, had not been providing an ‘abysmal state of service’, the situation with the better together programme might have been different.

Roy Galley (Con, Buxted and Maresfield) explained that the CCG was ‘well regarded’ in the area and had helped to secure the future of hospitals in Crowborough and Uckfield.

He added: “It has addressed a number of serious healthcare issues.”

But John Ungar (LDEm, Eastbourne - Old Town) said the new programme did not ‘grab him with enthusiasm’ like East Sussex Better Together did, and he challenged whether Connecting 4 You could deliver the money needed to invest in community services.

Keith Hinkley, director for adult social care and health at ESCC, explained that in the face of increased service pressures and financial constraints all sides had to focus on prevention, improving health and wellbeing, shifting provision from acute to community services, and closer integration.

Keith Glazier (Con, Rye and Eastern Rother) added: “I think this is the best way forward for East Sussex.”

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