STRUCTURE: Commissioners have “unanimously” backed proposals to reconfigure three key service areas at East Sussex Healthcare Trust.

The trust began a three month consultation at the end of September on reconfiguring stroke services, and emergency and higher risk general and orthopaedic surgery between its two main hospital sites.

The trust subsequently received public criticism of its “Shaping our Future” strategy from groups wanting to maintain the full range of services at both hospitals.

Transport minister Norman Baker, who is Liberal Democrat MP for Seaford and Polegate, was among those backing the “Save Eastbourne DGH” campaign, which has opposed the plans on the grounds that the hospital will lose services.

However, the trust announced on 15 November that its board had agreed that stroke services should be centralised on the Eastbourne District General Hospital site.

But, emergency and higher risk planned general surgery, and emergency and higher risk planned orthopaedics would be located at the Conquest Hospital site in Hastings.

The recommendations were rubber stamped today (23 November), at a meeting of the three local clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Sussex primary care trust cluster.

Dr Martin Writer, chair of the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG, said: “Currently vital therapy services for stroke patients are not always available at weekends – now they will be. We also expect fewer cancelled operations and more senior consultants available for emergency surgery.”

Now that plans have been approved by commissioners, they will be developed into a full business case which is set to be finalised early in 2013.

However, at a different public meeting also held today, the local campaign group launched a new e-petition on the government’s website to try and secure a debate in the House of Commons.

Trust chief executive Darren Grayson said: “Local people are quite rightly passionate about their hospitals and so are we. We firmly believe we have made the right recommendations for the future of healthcare in East Sussex.”

Mr Grayson revealed to HSJ in April that the trust would be seeking to reduce duplication of services as part of its longer-term clinical strategy.

He said it was vital to the organisation’s ambitions of becoming a foundation trust.  It is due to apply to the Department of Health for FT status in October 2013, placing it near the back of the pipeline.