Hospital Friends keeping ahead of the times

THE importance of the evolving role of the League of Friends of Bexhill Hospital in matching the 21st Century needs of local patients has been emphasised at the charity's annual meeting.

His views were later echoed by guest speaker Dr Greg Wilcox.

Chairman Stuart Earl said a good working dialogue had been established with officers of Hastings and Rother Primary Care Trust.

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Decisions on how best to spend the money generously given by the public were taken with great care by the league's committee. Its aim was to ensure the maximum benefit for the people of Bexhill.

"More and more things will be done away from hospitals and doctors' surgeries and more and more services will be available nearly everywhere.

"Now we have to think about providing the equipment and the comforts that can go alongside those providing we are assured that that is done for the benefit of our residents.

"But it goes away from the traditional thought that money is raised in Bexhill for Bexhill and only Bexhill.

"If you had the opportunity as we have to visit some the facilities in the Conquest Hospital which our residents actually use, I feel we are all of us rewarded in making the right decision when we see these facilities in use.

"A lot of the residents of Bexhill would have to travel a lot further for treatment if we didn't support it.

"But I do understand, and I emphasise it as well, that we have to be extremely careful that we do not become the funders when the actual government and the NHS should be doing their bit.

"I believe that the NHS, the local Trust and ourselves should share the responsibility. It is too easy to say 'We can't afford it. Let's go to the League of Friends.' So we have to be very vigilant in the way that we look at every proposal and make sure that what is given and bequeathed to us to look after and use is spent wisely."

The chairman paid tribute to the dedication and skills of his committee.

"We do it with humour. But we also do it with care and with honest debate."

The theme of fast-changing health care was taken up by Dr Wilcox, a Hastings GP who chairs the PCT's professional executive committee.

He was warmly applauded for a address which combined clarity with humour.

He contrasted today's PCT - responsible for managing general practice, dentistry, optometry, community nursing services and for commissioning and paying for services like the hospitals trust, mental health and ambulance service - with the NHS he knew when newly-qualified.

He said: "We are in times of change and things are changing so fast.

"Understanding where we have come from and the changes over the last few years gives us an insight into where we might be."

"I started as a house surgeon at Pembury in 1981. We used to do a lot of appendixes. We used to do a lot of perforated peptic ulcers. We used to do gall bladders, cutting you open from the elbow to the right ankle as far as I could see!"

He added: "The point of all this is that it was fire-fighting. I am very much for health maintenance. I rarely see a fire."

Patients now expected higher standards and this was a good thing.

"I don't want to drive around in a 40 year-old car. Medicine is just the same."

He foresaw the expansion of day surgery, the development of preventative medicine, more services being undertaken by GPs.

Bexhill Hospital, with its Irvine Unit offering vital rehabilitation, would occupy an important mid-point.

The doctor answered a string of questions from league members and was thanked by chairman Stuart Earl for putting his points with such ability.