Maternity care at Eastbourne District General Hospital will be downgraded amid safety concerns.

A decision was taken last night (March 8) to move some specialist care from Eastbourne to the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards.

Urgent action was required as the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the two hospitals, struggled to fill vacant posts in the maternity unit.

Darren Grayson, Chief Executive said: “Our doctors, midwives and nurses, together with the National Clinical Advisory Team 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.”

All pregnant women who are currently booked to give birth in the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust are due to be contacted to discuss how these plans may affect them.

The move will see the Eastbourne maternity ward downgraded to a midwife-led service in the next six to eight weeks.

The consultant-led obstetric service, neonatal (including the Special Care Baby Unit), in-patient paediatric and emergency gynaecology services will be moved to the Conquest Hospital.

A statement from the trust said: "Local women should be reassured that measures are in place to ensure our service remains safe whilst we make these changes.

"We will also be contacting the families of children who frequently attend the Trust for treatment so they are aware of the arrangements that will be made for their care."

The decision does not affect Crowborough Birthing Centre, out-patient gynaecology, in-patient gynaecology for elective surgery, out-patient paediatrics, out-patient ante-natal clinics, early pregnancy services, Maternity Day Unit provision, community midwifery services or community paediatric services.

Lindsey Stevens, Head of Midwifery, said: “As a midwife I would like to assure all the women in Eastbourne that we are passionate about providing the best care we can.

"These changes are not being made by managers and they are not driven by finances, they have been suggested by us and our medical colleagues because we know that we can offer a better and sustainable service by working on one site.

"We already run a very successful midwifery led unit at Crowborough which is held in high regard by the women who have used it.

"Midwifery led units are very safe places for low risk women to give birth.

"I want to reassure local women that in other parts of the country, including Kent, stand alone midwifery led units are about the same travel time from a consultant led obstetric unit as Eastbourne is to Hastings.

"These units operate very safely and successfully and offer women a very positive birth experience.

"Please be assured our sole interest has been and always will be about the provision of a high quality midwifery service".

This is a temporary change and any proposed permanent changes to maternity services in the county would still need to be subject to a full and open dialogue with the residents of East Sussex.