Effects of cuts to maternity services revealed in survey

Campaigners for Hands Off the Conquest and Save The DGH outside the Royal British Legion, Little Common, in 2012. Liz Walke, Stephen Lloyd MP, Cllr Mike Turner and Margaret Williams

Almost half of East Sussex mothers who were transferred during labour ended up at the Conquest Hospital, a survey has found.

A study into maternity services across East Sussex revealed that just under a third of mothers who began their labour at Eastbourne DGH were transferred to other hospitals, including Hastings, because of a lack of a consultant-led service.

Almost 1,700 mothers who gave birth in the county in 2016 took part in the survey – 35 per cent of the total number who gave birth last year.

Of the 90 respondents who reported being transferred during labour, 41 were moved to the Conquest Hospital from other areas in East Sussex. Only four people were transferred from the Conquest to another hospital. Two East Sussex mothers gave birth in a vehicle in 2016.

The survey was conducted by Eastbourne Borough Council with the Office for National Statistics, and organisers hope the findings will get health bosses to look again at the issue of consultant-led services only being at Hastings.

Key points from the survey, to be considered by the council’s scrutiny committee in December, reveal most mothers believe the services to be excellent or good but 17 per cent consider the post-natal services to be poor or very poor and 78 per cent of mothers would wish to give birth at a location with doctors on site. Ninety-three per cent of mothers served by the Eastbourne, Hailsham, and Seaford CCG would choose to give birth at Eastbourne DGH if a full obstetric service was available.

Of the 456 mothers served by the Hastings and Rother CCG, almost two thirds rated the birthing service as excellent, but just 31 per cent deemed the post-natal service as excellent too.

One respondent said: “I wanted to give birth in my home town of Hastings and would not have wanted to travel to Eastbourne, particularly if experiencing painful contractions. I was very pleased with the service and care I received on Murray Ward, delivery suite and Frank Shaw Ward. I was taken in for emergency theatre and my baby may not have survived without the intervention of doctors.”

Survey organiser Robert Smart said: “The importance of this unique aspect of health care cannot be over-stated and it is imperative such services meet the needs of the community in a fair, equitable and high-quality way. A huge amount of information has been collated and presented in this survey and it is my wish the feedback received is fully embraced by service providers and commissioners in assessing current and future provision.”

Senior midwife at ESHT Jo Shayler said: “Our priority is to provide high quality, safe maternity services for women. All pregnant women who live in Eastbourne receive a full ante and post-natal service at the DGH. Local women with certain medical conditions or who develop complications during pregnancy are advised to give birth at the obstetric unit at the Conquest. Those women are fully informed of our transfer rate which in 2016 was 18.7 per cent and compares favourably with the expected national average of 25 per cent.”

The full survey results are available to view online at www.eastbourne.gov.uk.

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