Changes to hospital maternity and children’s services to start Tuesday

CONTROVERSIAL changes to maternity and children’s services start on Tuesday.

The consultant-led maternity unit will be based at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings while Eastbourne DGH’s unit is to be reduced to one led by midwives.

The unpopular decision was made by NHS bosses on March 8, to the anger of campaigners from both Hands off the Conquest and Save the DGH.

Both groups had fought against similar proposals in 2008 when the then Secretary of State overturned the plans.

Campaigners cited poor road infrastructure between Hastings and Eastbourne and added the latest move could potentially put mothers and babies at risk.

Neonatal (including the Special Care Baby Unit), in-patient paediatric and emergency gynaecology services will be based at the Conquest.

The changes mean women needing emergency Caesareans and suffering from other complications during labour will have to travel almost 20 miles to the Conquest.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both hospitals, said the move is temporary and will last up to 18 months.

It also said it was necessary for safety reasons following advice from the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT).

Jamal Zaidi, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said: “The safety of women and babies is our number one priority and we believe that these temporary changes will mean we can provide the best care possible.”

He added that all pregnant women planning to give birth at the trust will have the opportunity to discuss the changes with their midwife or obstetrician.

Changes are also being made to the way services are provided on the Friston Children’s Unit at the DGH.

It will become a Short Stay Paediatric Assessment Unit which will only assess and treat children who have been referred by their GP. Any child who is likely to need an overnight stay in hospital will be treated elsewhere, usually at the Conquest.

The temporary changes do not affect outpatient paediatrics and gynaecology, as well as community midwifery and children’s services. The trust said any proposed permanent changes to maternity and paediatric services will be the responsibility of the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups and would still need to be subject to a full and open public consultation.