The Department for Health said it will not review the decision to move consultant-led maternity services from Eastbourne DGH to the Conquest hospital.
After a 24,000 strong petition was handed to the department by the Save The DGH campaign group, MP Stephen Lloyd said the outcome was ‘profoundly disappointing’.
Mr Lloyd said, “The department’s response is profoundly disappointing, and demonstrates a complete disregard for the majority of Eastbourne residents’ concerns. We are all aware locally that, sadly, a number of councillors from outside Eastbourne voted to ‘not’ refer the trust’s decision to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), but I really felt the response from the Minister, and a junior health minister at that, was just passing the buck. What has to happen locally before the Department of Health hear our profound and very real concerns?”
Liz Walke, who headed up the Save The DGH campaign, said, “There is a huge miscarriage of justice here. Relying on politicians who don’t live in Eastbourne or rely on their maternity and paediatric services being provided at Eastbourne DGH is profoundly unfair particularly when the matter of travel to the nearest obstetric unit is well over the accepted time in an emergency and which has been totally missed by all who produced the statistics and reports which were about safety concerns within the hospital.
“The decision in 2008 has just been completely ignored by the local NHS management who have got away with overseeing the unit becoming unsafe to bring about this downgrading which is what they had planned in 2007! It is totally unacceptable and needs investigation.”
The petition, which was presented by members of the campaign and a couple of affected young mums, asked the Secretary of State for Health to refer the decision to move consultant-led maternity to the Conquest in Hastings to the IRP.
Recent legal advice provided to the Save The DGH campaign said as the conditions around transport between the two hospitals had not changed, the original Independent IRP decision in 2008 to retain consultant-led maternity at both hospitals should stand. Junior Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter, said he appreciates ‘the concerns raised about this and the strength of feeling about the removal of consultant-led maternity services at the Eastbourne District General Hospital’.
However, he said, “The East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) has decided not to refer this case. The Secretary of State is unable to consider asking the advice of the IRP without a formal referral from the local authority.”
Conservative candidate for Eastbourne, Caroline Ansell said, “I am a DGH mum myself, I know what it is to travel in labour and to need urgent, specialist care. But this was the decision made locally and it’s clearly local heart and minds we will need to prevail upon.”