New dawn for health service, but no A&E

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Blood pressure helps gauge fitness levels
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A Sussex health chief has said there will ‘never be’ a accident and emergency unit in the Crawley area.

The Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH), which runs East Surrey Hospital and a range of services at Crawley Hospital, is moving closer towards becoming a foundation trust, where patients will have a greater say in how services are run.

But chief executive Michael Wilson said providers were in the hands of GPs in Clinical Commissioning Groups over providing new services.

He said: “It’s about critical mass of patients. Commissioners have to say to us ‘we would like you provide more services’.

“Hospitals only get paid for what they provide. CCGs are the people who decide what they want to buy. It’s never going to be acute care (in Horsham or Crawley) because of the infrastructure that would need.

“They have to look at the strategic context. Commissioners in Horsham and Crawley try very hard to work with the trust. We have got a good relationship. They think through how services can be more locally based and are quite realistic in terms of assessing level of expertise, and patient safety issues.

“There are services that should be close to people’s homes where it’s safe to do so. We support that philosophy.”

Foundation trust status means it will become more accountable to patients and less so to central government.

Some 18 months after the plans were first announced, the trust has passed several key stages, including winning support from the health regulator Monitor and the chief inspector of hospitals.

About 9,000 people have already become members; the trust’s target is 9,500.

Mr Wilson said: “One of the differences is because it’s a membership organisation, members represent the views of the local constituency in their community. Members elect the governors and that’s very different to how we operate at the moment. They have a stronger say in the services.

“Four and a half years ago we wouldn’t have got 9,000 members. There’s a lot of interest in the hospital and about the exciting things we are doing and continue to do.

He added: “Reputation takes a long time to change. If you look at the chief inspector of hospital’s report, we are still one of the only trusts in the country to have a good rating in every domain.

“Yes, there’s always more that we can do, but I don’t think people’s views of the hospital are any longer justified. It’s a strong organisation.”

For information about membership go to www.surreyandsussex.nhs.uk