Continuing fight

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I am writing regarding the meeting of Adur District Council’s planning committee on January 19, which was covered in the Herald on January 22.

Readers might be confused by the contradictory messages that were being sent out by the councillors, so I would just like to clarify the situation.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust wants to sell off two thirds of the Southlands Hospital site to a developer and had applied for outline planning permission to demolish most of the hospital buildings to make way for housing, thus making the site as attractive as possible for any purchaser.

The trust will be getting a large sum of money from the Government to do this.

The Save Southlands campaigners have been arguing for several years that the site should be retained for use as a hospital.

One of the campaign’s key demands was that step-down or community beds be available for patients recuperating from operations, who no longer require surgery but are not fit to go home.

In view of the crisis that is besetting A&E departments across the country as well as in West Sussex, this seems to be quite a logical position to take, especially as in June, 2014, the deputy chief executive of the trust, reported to the board of governors that the number of elderly patients who could not be discharged safely was causing the trust considerable problems at both Worthing and St Richards.

Councillors on the planning committee were more than aware of the situation.

Conservative councillors Peter Metcalfe and Brian Coomber both referred to the problem, in terms of ambulances unable to discharge their patients and the additional traffic congestion, with Adur residents having to go to Worthing and Chichester rather than the facility on their doorstep.

But when it came to the vote, Tory chairman Brian Boggis whipped them into line with his statement: “The decision about what is required to run a good health service is not for us to make.”

And so the vote was taken and the death warrant drawn up by trust chief executive Marianne Griffiths was duly signed by Adur district councillors.

It is the contention of the campaign that the councillors could have remitted the proposals and sought to scrutinise the trust’s claims that all the proceeds from the sale (the £6.5million quoted includes the money from the proceeds of the sale) were to be reinvested in the local facilities at Southlands.

But they chose not to do that, leaving the trust free to do what they will with the proceeds.

It certainly won’t be spent on community beds, meaning the problems of black alerts in A&E departments are inevitably going to re-occur.

Nonetheless, campaigners will continue to fight for the future of Southlands and the future of the NHS.

S.J. Guy

Sussex Defend the NHS

Southview Road

Southwick

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