As the number of patients waiting for appointments nudge up to 8 million, the population of Switzerland, surely there has never been a greater need for Community Hospitals? Sadly, and amazingly in equal measure, the Uckfield Hospital appears to be underused.

Despite the fashion for populist governments, this dilemma is complex nuanced and not going to be resolved by simplistic headline grabbing statements. First and foremost, there is a crisis in the workforce numbers, doctors, nurses radiographs and all clinical staff. Again, there is no “quick fix” as it takes years to train clinicians. Just as funding limits training clinical staff, it also effects the ability to pay for services, infrastructure, and clinical staff.

The NHS is undergoing another reorganisation to create an Integrated Care Board which aims to create a seamless health service. It all sounds “good” another reorganisation of health care sends shudders of despair down many of us, as history tells us these reorganisations have little benefit for patient care, always expensive, both in terms of capital, revenue, and leaps in the numbers of non-clinical staff. “Integrated Care” is desperately needed for Uckfield hospital, which does not even have a responsible manager, and receives its patients from different and disparate sources, in a seemingly uncoordinated manor. With these crucial issues in mind, we were delighted to find our local MP willing and able to meet with the relevant managers to discuss how services and usage could be improved. We were even more delighted to find Nus Ghani pressing for a fullow up meeting to see if the managers warm words would be converted into actions.

The follow up meeting was as might be expected helpful but still creates doubts. Firstly the ICB are now aware of the potential of the Hospital. There is however an urgent review of operating sessions to evaluate and hopefully ensure that these expensive facilities are used properly. Clearly this an important examination but naturally it does not exclude closure of any one of these operating theatres. This is more relevant when we know all secondary care hospitals, the District General Hospitals, for example Eastbourne are all building Day Case units with operating theatres. The follow up meeting also confirmed that it is unlikely that Uckfield will play any significant role in the new Diagnostic Centres. Similarly at the present time Uckfield will not become an Urgent Treatment Centre.

In summary whilst we are not “forgotten”, no hard commitment has been received about the future role of our Community Hospital. On the other hand, if the massive waiting times for health care in every sector, are to be tackled, Community Hospitals should have a role. Recent political announcements by the Opposition, have again stressed the vital role of GP’s and Community care institutions to help control waiting times. As political parties normally copy each other’s ideas, the future looks encouraging.

We can assure readers that they can rely on The League of Friends to be ever vigilant and ask difficult questions!