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Safety concerns at maternity unit
A hospital maternity unit could be downgraded as early as next month because of concerns over safety.
Managers want to turn the consultant-led department at Eastbourne District General Hospital into a midwife-led one because they have been struggling to recruit staff.
The change will mean women from across Eastbourne, Newhaven, Seaford and surrounding areas with high risk pregnancies or those who develop complications will have to travel to the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards instead.
In-patient paediatric, neonatal and emergency gynaecology services will also be based at St Leonards.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both hospitals, says the temporary move is vital to ensure they are providing services safely.
Campaigners have condemned the proposals, saying lives will be put at risk as a result.
A special trust board meeting is being held on Friday to discuss the proposals and if they are given the go-ahead, the changes could be enforced within six weeks.
The trust says the move would be a temporary measure and a public consultation would need to be held if the changes were to become permanent.
Campaigners who unsuccessfully fought to stop emergency general and orthopaedic surgery being moved from Eastbourne to St Leonards earlier this year, are furious at the latest developments.
Liz Walke from Save the DGH said: “If this goes ahead, the board are letting peo- ple down and they are putting the lives of women and their unborn babies at risk.”
The maternity unit at Eastbourne is used by around 2,000 women a year.
Between 1,200 and 1,300 of these are expected to have to travel to the Conquest if the changes go ahead, while between 500 and 600 will use the midwife-led unit.
Chief executive Darren Grayson said: “We all know that it is easy to make changes after an incident has occurred.
“What is more challenging but is the right thing to do is to make changes now to ensure the service is as safe as possible to avoid any preventable risks to a mother or her baby.
“As the accountable officer, I have ultimate responsibility for safety in this organisation and I have to listen and take action when senior doctors, midwifery staff and agencies tell me it is not sustainable on safety grounds to continue.”
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