LETTER: NHS mess is no longer acceptable

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In the early 1990s, local parish councils, led by North Horsham, recognised acute problems with future hospital provision for Horsham.

Forming a joint committee under the chairmanship of Peter Lewis, they initiated intensive,

far reaching liaison with national and local agencies, to try to resolve the problems at an early stage.

However, despite their best efforts, they were unable to get any positive actions. This was partly due to local county and district councils failure to actively support their initiative.

Sometime later, the CEO of the local health authority started an amalgamation process with neighbouring Surrey. There was ineffective consultation and the eventual result was the promotion of Redhill’s East Surrey as the main hospital for the Horsham area. Local services at Crawley were reduced including maternity services and a severe downgrading of A&E.

Unfortunately, there are other significant drawbacks to East Surrey as Horsham’s major acute hospital:

1) It was too small.

2) It is too far to travel.

3) Its performance has been consistently poor; remaining at the bottom of the league table, and showing considerable serious deficiencies during checks.

In addition, promises to alleviate the transport problems have not been forthcoming, making its access by both patients and relatives tortuous and unpleasant.

Over the years there has been initiatives to give the area a new hospital. There was a good chance some years ago, but this was rejected by the local PCT, who felt that available money to improve Horsham Hospital would be jeopardised.

More recently we have heard glowing promises of a new hospital as part of the proposed building North of Horsham. However, its fruition was very unlikely; it was little more than a “pipe dream” bribe in the very distant future.

Recent events have scuppered any real chance of that anyway.

So what to the future? My personal view is that in the long term we need to restructure the NHS completely, removing the many committees, quangos,

advisory groups etc. and replacing them with a simple national board.

Their job would be to look at strategic planning for the next fifty years. They need to plan major and minor hospital provision to serve the existing and

expected population. They should use and upgrade existing hospitals if they can, remove those in the wrong place, and build new when needed.

We would need a regional input to this as well; to advise and survey local needs; but not to decide, as it is local vested interests that have put us in the situation we find ourselves.

In addition, we need to think local. Everything we can should be moved to local surgeries, to give local people the services they need locally. Obviously more serious problems will need to be treated in specialist hospitals, but then recuperation etc. should be done closer to home.

Did you know that there was an excellent scheme to give some GPs further specialist training in specific fields; sort of “mini consultants”. My local surgery,

Holbrook, had at least two and very useful it was too. We need to enhance that scheme.

However, I used to be able to get a blood sample taken at my local surgery. Not any longer, I have to make an appointment at Horsham, travel, wait and it is still sent away to the same place for analysis.

In the short term, I feel Horsham should make Worthing our primary hospital. It is nice, pleasant and easier to get to than Redhill.

Finally we need to look at Horsham Hospital itself. What is its purpose? How can it be enhanced? Do we need to spend money on it and if so, is it in the

right place? Could the land be sold off and the money used to provide a replacement fairly close by, easily accessible, but better.

Whatever we do decide to do, we cannot accept the current dyslexic mess any longer.

PETER BURGESS

(Con) Horsham district councillor for Holbrook West, Haybarn Drive, Horsham