Midhurst doctors launch campaign to save care standards

editorial image

MIDHURST doctors are launching a campaign to preserve the standard of care for frail and elderly patients at the town’s community hospital following a Sussex Community Trust (SCT) decision to remove them from the GPs’ care.

Without warning or consultation with doctors, nursing staff or the matron running the hospital, the trust is planning to replace the Midhurst doctors with what they claim will be a less-experienced doctor visiting for fewer hours.

Dr Tim Hill, representing the seven doctors at the Riverbank Medical Centre, said they were ‘angry and concerned’ by the ‘underhand’ way in which the trust had acted and feared for the standard of care in the future.

“The centre has provided the medical cover for the hospital for many years,” he said. “Our contract was due to be renewed in September and we had a meeting with the chief executive of the trust, Paula Head, in March when we were given the impression there were no concerns about care at the community hospital. But a few weeks later we discovered an advertisement had been placed in the British Medical Journal for a doctor to take over the medical cover at the community hospital.”

The Midhurst doctors wrote asking the trust to put the recruitment on hold while they discussed the matter, but received no reply.

Now the SCT has agreed to meet doctors, but not until after interviews for the replacement doctor which were due to take place on Tuesday, June 4.

“We provide a very good level of cover at the hospital,” said Dr Hill. “We do a daily ward round and see each patient every day. We also have weekly meetings with the therapists, nursing staff and social workers to provide joined-up care many of the frail, elderly patents require.

“A lot of the patients are local and we have known them for years and know their families and we can make safe plans for their discharge home so patients are not bounced back into acute hospitals with problems.

“Another concern is that if a doctor is employed to cover two hospitals, there won’t be anyone here all the time to cover for emergencies – our medical centre is less than 25 metres from the hospital.

“If the medical cover is being downgraded, then we worry for the future of the hospital beds as a whole.”

The Midhurst doctors say the move flies in the face of an announcement from Simon Stevens, the new head of the health service, who has said he wants to see more care in community hospitals close to patients’ homes.

“We feel the end results of these changes will be more patients being transferred to the acute unit at St Richard’s as emergencies,” said Dr Hill.

Patient care is the Sussex Community Trust’s top priority, its medical director told the Observer.

Richard Quirk said: “At SCT, patient care and safety are our top priorities. We manage eight community hospitals across West Sussex where our staff provide care and rehabilitation for elderly and vulnerable patients. Our medical cover is currently provided from the GPs of the local surgery nearest to the hospital.

“The needs of our patients are becoming ever more complex, so we need to ensure we have the right level of nursing, therapeutic and medical care in place to care for our patients.

“To meet our top priorities of patient care and safety, we are conducting a year-long review to look at how medical care is delivered and what changes if any need to be made in the future.

“We have spoken with our GPs and will continue to.”

For full story see the Midhurst and Petworth Observer today (Thursday, June 5)