New threat to maternity at the Conquest

CAMPAIGNERS say they are bitterly disappointed at options which spell the end of consultant led maternity services at both Hastings and Eastbourne hospitals.

They spoke out after Clinical Commissioning Groups in East Sussex agreed six potential options for the future of maternity and paediatric services in the county at a meeting on Wednesday.

There are three models for maternity and paediatrics services with six possible configurations for delivering them across hospital sites at Hastings, Eastbourne and Crowborough. These have been developed by senior local doctors, nurses and midwives and developed following extensive public and clinical engagement.

All options include the provision of obstetric-led maternity services, two midwife-led birthing units and an overnight “in-patient” paediatric ward in East Sussex. There would continue to be a short-stay paediatric assessment unit at both Eastbourne and Hastings. Four of the six options include the retention of a midwife-led unit at Crowborough. Under each of the options, emergency gynaecology services would be located at the same site as obstetrics.

The main difference from the service as it was provided before the temporary changes of May 2013 is that the options do not include the provision of obstetrics and in-patient paediatrics on both hospital sites.

Dr Martin Writer, chair of Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG, said: “We are satisfied these six options represent the best opportunity to provide safe and high quality services for local people in the long term. We are pleased to proceed with these options and are preparing to launch widespread public consultation follow the HOSC meeting in January.

“We have no preferred option or sites for these services at this stage. We want to have a genuine conversation with the public, patients, clinicians and our local partners about the challenges and opportunities presented by these options before making a decision next summer.

“The Better Beginnings review has concluded that it is not possible to maintain safe services with the previous two-site model for obstetrics. We cannot move forward with options that we do not believe are safe.

“We are aware that these are significant and controversial issues for local people and we were pleased to welcome the public to our meetings today. I would urge people to keep an eye on our websites, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and look out for our consultation materials when they are published. The NHS belongs to the people and we are genuine in our commitment to talking and listening to local people when making decisions about local services.”

The governing bodies of the three CCGs agreed to submit the options to East Sussex County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC). HOSC will meet in January to consider whether the options constitute a substantial change to local health services and should therefore be subject to formal public consultation.

Save the DGH spokeswoman Liz Walke said the fight to keep consultant led maternity at both sites would continue and campaigners would keep looking at options.