Campaigners ‘betrayed’ as hospital bosses threaten maternity services

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CAMPAIGNERS say they have been ‘betrayed’ by hospital bosses who are understood to have set the wheels in motion to shut down maternity services.

Hospital chiefs would not deny the option to scrap a maternity unit at either Eastbourne DGH or Conquest Hospital in Hastings was on the table, but rubbished reports a firm decision had been made to downgrade one of the departments from April 1.

Despite these denials, staff who work on maternity wards at the DGH said the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit has already been closed temporarily.

Sources close to senior hospital management said steps have been taken – in private – towards closing a maternity department which sees around 2,000 births a year.

At a meeting on Wednesday (March 9) chair of Save the DGH Campaign Liz Walke asked if the NHS trust, which runs the two hospitals, was prepared to ignore independent advice that closing a unit would be dangerous for pregnant women.

In 2008 the Independent Reconfiguration Panel ruled both maternity departments should stay open – the report said the 21-mile journey between the two hospitals would ‘seriously compromise’ access to care.

Margaret Williams of Hands of the Conquest called for board members East Sussex Hospitals Trust board member to resign if they choose to fly in the face of a recommendations endorsed by then Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson.

But the trust’s chief executive Darren Grayson and chairman Irene Dibben refused to answer their questions and rapped them on the knuckles for speaking to the press before consulting them.

A senior figure in local health services described the exchange as ‘fractious’.

Mrs Walke, who claims she sent Mr Grayson an email on Tuesday (March 8) with no reply, said, “Women’s and babies’ lives will be compromised. It’s fact not fiction.

“We feel totally betrayed. Nothing has changed since the IRP’s report.

“There has been no bypass built to make the journey easier, but what there has been is a complete change of the board.”

For the full story see Friday’s Herald (March 11).