NHS bosses have voted unanimously to centralise consultant-led maternity services at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings within weeks.
The move has sparked fury from campaigners from both the Hands off the Conquest and Save the DGH groups.
Clinicians and managers from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both the Conquest and Eastbourne’s DGH, met at the Manor Barn in Bexhill on Friday (March 8) and, after a three-hour meeting, decided to go-ahead with the controversial proposal to base consultant-led maternity at the hospital on The Ridge, while turning the DGH’s maternity unit into one led by midwives.
Some members of the public vented their anger, accusing the hospital trust of already making up its mind prior to today’s meeting.
Trust board members said the move is only temporary and will last up to 18 months. They also assured the public that any permanent changes would have to go to full public consultation.
Campaigners from Hands off the Conquest and Save the DGH are furious as both groups fought against similar proposals in 2008 when the then Secretary of State overruled NHS managers’ plans. Both groups want to see the Conquest and DGH keep all of their emergency services intact.
Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “The only thing that has changed since 2008 is that the road between Hastings and Eastbourne has got busier and more babies are being born. To single site maternity is morally wrong for the residents of East Sussex. Why should one side of the patch benefit to the detriment of the other?”
The other four options the trust discussed on Friday were to keep things as they are at both hospitals, employ additional consultants in obstetrics (emergency births), paediatrics and extra midwives, set up an out-of-hours divert from one site to the other and increase consultant cover in the evenings for obstetrics.
Consultant-led obstetric services, neonatal (including the Special Care Baby Unit), in-patient paediatric and emergency gynaecology services will be based at the Conquest within six to eight weeks. The DGH will have a stand alone midwifery-led maternity unit alongside enhanced ambulatory paediatric care.
The trust said arrangements are being made to contact all pregnant women currently booked to give birth so they can discuss how these plans may affect them
Darren Grayson, trust chief executive, said: “We have a duty to make sure our obstetric and neonatal services are as safe as possible and meet national guidelines. Our doctors, midwives and nurses, together with the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) have advised us that the current maternity and paediatric services in East Sussex cannot continue as they are at present and that urgent action is required. Despite considerable effort over a long period of time we have not been able to recruit suitable doctors to fill essential posts in these specialities. This means we are over reliant on temporary and agency staff and the measures we have put in place to ensure the units are safe have become increasingly complex and unsustainable.
“We have listened to our doctors, midwives, nurses and external bodies like the National Clinical Advisory Team and taken action to ensure the service we provide is as safe as possible and to avoid any preventable risk to a mother or her baby. It is clear that external and internal clinicians are saying that it will be safer to temporarily locate consultant-led obstetrics, neonatal, in-patient paediatric and emergency gynaecology services on one site. It would be unacceptable for the trust to deliver a service that was at risk of not meeting standards when there is something safer that we can do.”
Lindsey Stevens, head of midwifery, also spoke in favour o f the changes.
She said the changes were not being made to save money and would result in a “better and sustainable service by working on one site.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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