Campaigners disappointed by hospital meeting

Save the DGH march along Eastbourne seafront Saturday 15th September 2012 E38160N'Liz Walke speaks at the rally on the Wish Tower slopes.
Save the DGH march along Eastbourne seafront Saturday 15th September 2012 E38160N'Liz Walke speaks at the rally on the Wish Tower slopes.

Save the DGH campaigners have been left disappointed following a meeting over changes at the hospital, saying the Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) did not stop the temporary downgrade of maternity and paediatric units.

HOSC, people from the Save The DGH group, the board of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, and Lindsey Stevens, the consultant head of midwifery at the DGH, were among those at the meeting which took place at County Hall in Lewes on Thursday.

This follows the decision to see Eastbourne become a stand-alone midwifery-led maternity unit within a matter of weeks.

Campaign leader Liz Walke said that HOSC, which is mainly made up of East Sussex county councillors, didn’t say directly to the trust at the meeting that it must stop the plans immediately.

When maternity services were under threat five years ago HOSC referred the matter to the then Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson who on advice from the IRP said the maternity could not be downgraded at the DGH.

Mrs Walke, chairman of the group, said, “We are disappointed that the Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) of East Sussex Ccuncillors did not stop the temporary downgrade of Eastbourne DGH’s Maternity and Paediatric units at their meeting.

“However HOSC are writing to the Secretary of State for Health and they have also said that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHNT) which runs Eastbourne DGH, cannot make any changes on a permanent basis to enable consultant-led maternity to return to Eastbourne DGH.

“It was clear at this meeting that Chief Executive, Darren Grayson, of ESHNT stating several times that the independent decision of experts on the request of the Secretary of State for Health, to keep consultant-led maternity at EDGH in 2008, was the wrong one. He has effectively dismissed all the work undertaken by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), with its experts and in-depth enquiry, and the subsequent directive from the Secretary of State for Health, saying that their decision was wrong.”

Mrs Walke says she feels the trust should have looked at staffing the two consultant-led units by looking at different ways of staffing, adding, “It is now clear that the ESHNT plan will never deliver what the IRP said as they clearly don’t want to and never had the inclination to, despite accepting the recommendations in full at the time.

“We believe the IRP recommendations are achievable and can be implemented by looking at different ways of working, perhaps by removing middle grade doctors which are so difficult to recruit.”

Carolyn Heaps, who is on HOSC, said she was strongly against the plans to downgrade maternity and paediatric services at the DGH.

Referring to how she feels the meeting went she added, “I was very disappointed about Darren Grayson’s inability to understand that some people believe it is his management and his board who is responsible for the mess Eastbourne is currently in.

“I make no apology for representing the people that elected me, he’s not an elected member, how has he got all this power?

“He waxes lyrical about a latest initiative in his latest newsletter to staff called ‘listening into action’ but he needs to start listening to the people whose lives are in his hands and act on this by resigning forthwith.

“We want this to go back to the Secretary of State for Health and stop what they are doing. I want our elected MP Stephen Lloyd to have the opportunity to put our case forward to the Secretary of State for Health and anyone else who can reverse this decision.

“By the actions of the trust moving staff to the Conquest when they did they have in effect exacerbated the problem of safety issues.

“Eastbourne deserves better.”

A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said, “The Board of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust have made it very clear that the service changes agreed on March 8 are temporary and that a strategic and long term solution will need to be agreed within 18 months through a process of engagement and if necessary formal public consultation which will be led by the local Clinical Commissioning Groups.

“The Board is also clear that the previous process undertaken by the local health and social care system in 2007 to develop proposals for the reconfiguration of maternity and paediatric services was flawed and resulted in an outcome which could not be approved by the IRP and has proved not to be deliverable. Darren Grayson’s comments at the HOSC were in line with this view.

“The Trust has set out in detail the attempts that have been made to ensure the service can be staffed safely and why these attempts have not been successful. It is important to note that one of the critical factors affecting the ability to recruit doctors is the level of experience that can be offered to them in a small unit which does not provide a sufficient range and volume of work for them to develop and maintain their skills. In addition the view of the external National Clinical Advisory Team is that ‘small services such as this could only be justified in a very remote rural location which this certainly is not’ should be noted.

“The decision made by the Board was fully informed by clinicians both from the Trust and externally who are of the view based on evidence that the changes will deliver a safer service for local women and babies.”