Trust threatens hospital with ward cut-backs

Uckfield Hospital by Ron Hill
Uckfield Hospital by Ron Hill
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Once again the threat of cutbacks hangs over a popular community hospital.

Many people have contacted the Sussex Express saying Harlands medical ward at Uckfield Community Hospital now faces staff cuts. Employees were summoned to an emergency budget meeting on Tuesday. On the table were plans to transfer Uckfield staff to Crowborough Community Hospital which has staff shortages and depends on expensive agency staff. One caller told us: “This means trained staff on night duty at Uckfield will be down to one registered nurse and two healthcare assistants.”

An East Sussex Healthcare Trust spokesman told the Express: “Harlands Ward is not closing. Meetings are taking place with staff from all our community hospitals to discuss how we deliver services within allocated budgets and this does include reducing current spend on agency staffing in our community hospitals. Agency nurses are typically 70% more expensive than our own nurses and continuity of care is difficult to provide with staff who are unfamiliar with patients and local services. It is important the Trust looks to reduce these costs where possible without reducing the quality of the service we provide.”

When asked: ‘Will staff moved to Crowborough be replaced, will Harlands Ward continue to offer full medical services with a reduced staff level and will night staff be cut back,’ he declined to comment further.

Another patient said: “The hospital was built with money donated by Uckfield people for the benefit of them and their families. Why should they travel to Crowborough when we have a perfectly good hospital here? Why not close Crowborough instead?”

A caller commented: “Someone has got their sums wrong and five months into this financial year there has been a massive overspend, mainly by Crowborough who have high levels of sickness and staff reluctant to take on overtime. They have 24 beds but are down to using 14. Managers want to spread staff from Uckfield to Crowborough to cover shifts. Should we break up a good team to fix a bad one? Understaffing means staff will be exhausted and overstretched.”

League of Friends Chairman Bernard Trew said: “This year’s annual report states things would not be as good as they are now if it wasn’t for staff. It will not improve until Trust executives run it like a community hospital and not a DGH offshoot. We used to run well within our budget. I will be interested to see what happens to Beechwood (the hospital’s specialist mental health and dementia unit.) A fortune has been spent on it and they talk about moving to Hastings.

“As Friends we are cautious about expenditure which comes thanks to the generosity of Uckfield people. Why should they spend money and not benefit ? You cannot spend for the sake of spending if if the Trust privatises or moves it elswhere.”