The public will be asked for their views on the future of East Sussex’s maternity services – and if current plans serve patients’ “best interests”.
A consultation was launched yesterday after six options were put forward to “urgently” change services to improve “safety and quality”.
Of the six options tabled, none include consultant-led midwife units at both Eastbourne General Hospital and the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards.
Maternity services at Eastbourne were temporarily downgraded to midwife-led in May last year.
New plans were drawn up following a review carried out last year by the clinical commission groups (CCGs) covering the county, which found there was a “compelling case” for change to improve the safety and quality of services.
The six options include the provision of obstetric-led maternity services, two midwife-led birthing units and an overnight “in-patient” paediatric ward in East Sussex.
Short stay paediatric assessment units at both Eastbourne and Hastings would continue, and four of the six options include a midwife-led unit at Crowborough.
Under all proposals, emergency gynaecology services would be located at the same site as obstetrics.
Liz Walke, from the Save the DGH campaign, said it was “wrong” the consultation didn’t include full consultant-led units at both hospitals.
She added: “They are holding the women of East Sussex to ransom. It’s disgusting. The Secretary of State said there should be two sites, so the decision makers here must try harder. We will keep campaigning. We are working on an alternative option because it’s vital we have two sites.”
The 12-week public consultation, which started yesterday, is being led by East Sussex’s three CCGs and closes on April 8.
A spokesman for the CCGs said: “We encourage people to read the consultation document and understand why there was an urgent need to change these services locally to improve safety and quality.
“Too many women and children using these services were being placed at risk of harm due to the challenges caused by an inability to recruit sufficient staff and as local GPs we cannot allow that to continue. The safety and quality of local services will always be our top priority. These six options are the only ones we believe can ensure the high standards we expect as local GPs in the long-term.”
Cllr Michael Ensor, chairman of East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “We will decide whether the CCGs’ decision is in the best interests of the health service for the people of East Sussex.
“If we are not satisfied, we have the option of referring the decision to the Secretary of State for Health.”
The full consultation document can be downloaded at www.betterbeginnings-nhs.net.