The chief executive of the trust which runs the DGH has defended the decision to make changes to services at the Eastbourne hospital.
Darren Grayson said, “We absolutely understand that in centralising services that there were some risks in doing so and travel was one of them.
“We had all 10 consultant obstetricians saying we needed to make these changes.
“All our senior midwives were telling us we needed to make the changes and we had support from GPs across the county.”
The decision was made by NHS bosses back in March to see the Eastbourne hospital become a stand alone midwifery-led maternity unit and to maintain a consultant-led obstetric service at the Conquest in Hastings. The changes also mean children are no longer able to stay overnight in the Friston Ward.
Mr Grayson said a lot of groundwork had been down at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings to expand and improve the maternity service and paediatric department.
Referring to the incident of Eastbourne mum Kirsty Peyton-Lander, who gave birth in the back of a car as her husband made a frantic dash to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, he said, “This is not unknown where a baby is born before the arrival of a midwife or health care professional.
“Last year in East Sussex there were 39 of them and for various reasons the women laboured very quickly and were not able to get to Eastbourne or the Conquest.
“This particular incident [involving Mrs Peyton-Lander] we are investigating to see how we managed it and were we at fault or weren’t we, is there anything we need to learn.”
Regarding people’s concerns over whether the change would remain temporary he added, “I can understand why people are sceptical, it’s one of those issues that have been misrepresented by local high profile people.
“As an NHS trust we have been very clear that what we have done is a temporary measure made on the basis of patient safety and the service will be more safe for the half a million population of East Sussex using it.”
He said any decision over the future of the services after the 18 month temporary period would be made by the Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Jane McFaite, a midwifery matron, said midwives are very skilled people and, recalling how the changes had gone so far at the DGH, she said, “Our first birth was very quick and she delivered in a short space of time. But everything else has been straight forward, we are very pleased that we managed to get six births in a week. A lot of places when they first set up don’t get any in the first week.”
She added that pregnant women living locally could still have ante-natal appointments and ultrasound scans at the DGH, adding, “The only thing we cannot deliver for Eastbourne women here is the actual birth if they are high risk.”
• To watch a video of staff talking about the changes and a video of an interview with Kirsty Peyton-Lander please log on to the Herald website.