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Anger at East Sussex maternity plan
Campaigners have condemned long-term plans for maternity services in East Sussex.
Six options being considered by health bosses will not include having full consultant-led units at both Eastbourne District General Hospital and the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards.
The proposals were drawn up following a review carried out earlier this year by the clinical commissioning groups (CCG) covering the county.
They have looked at services provided by the hospitals in Eastbourne and St Leonards and the midwife-run Crowborough birthing centre.
Full consultant services had previously been available at both main hospitals but East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust introduced temporary changes in May.
The consultant-led department at Eastbourne was downgraded to a midwife-led one.
Consultant services, plus children’s in-patient services, are now currently based at the Conquest.
The trust said the changes were needed to ensure patient safety, as it was struggling to fill the posts needed to run consultant units at both hospitals.
However protesters say lives will be put at risk if women who suffer complications during labour or who have an at-risk pregnancy are forced to travel further for treatment.
The six options now drawn up include basing consultant, emergency gynaecology and children’s inpatient services at either Eastbourne or St Leonards, but not at both.
Two options include no longer providing services at Crowborough and sending patients to midwife-run units at Eastbourne or St Leonards instead.
The CCGs are holding extraordinary meetings on Wednesday to decide whether the six options need to be referred to the East Sussex health overview and scrutiny committee watchdog.
The watchdog, which meets in January, will consider whether the options constitute a major change in service and should be put forward for a formal public consultation.
Amanda Philpott, joint chief officer of the CCGs covering Eastbourne, Hailsham, Seaford, Hastings and Rother, said the review had concluded it was not possible to maintain safe services with the previous two-site consultant service.
She said: “We recognise all options involve an element of change and that this may cause some concern for people.
"However this is a real opportunity for the public to help reshape local NHS maternity and paediatric services to ensure safe and high quality care for the future wellbeing of mothers, babies and children in East Sussex.”
Liz Walke from the Save the DGH campaign, who successfully fought to save maternity services at the hospital in 2008, said the proposals had left her “fuming”.
She said: “To not even give a two-site option in this reconfiguration shows complete contempt.
“The public have already made it very clear they want consultant care at Eastbourne DGH and the Conquest.
“The Save the DGH Campaign will be meeting to discuss what we can do next.”
More details are available at www.eastbournehailshamandseaford- ccg.nhs.uk.
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