Hospitals’ maternity services ‘stretched’

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THE FULL extent of the most recent maternity saga has been laid bare in a report by health inspectors.

Eastbourne DGH’s maternity unit was closed one week in four between April and December last year as the ward bore the brunt of staff shortages. In the course of an interview with the Care Quality Commission, a senior hospital figure confessed maternity services at both the DGH and Conquest had been ‘stretched’ and the current two-site configuration was ‘not safe’.

Senior maternity doctors at both the DGH and Conquest Hospital in Hastings advised hospital managers to temporarily close one unit, but hospital chief executive Darren Grayson denies a closure was ever on the cards.

“Senior doctors were saying they felt that that was the solution to their safety concerns. At no time, and remember the decision is not theirs but mine, was that what we planned,” he said.

Mr Grayson added, “If I have senior doctors advising me about safety and I ignore that and things go wrong, then people like you and the CQC would, quite rightly be critical of me for ignoring what senior doctors were saying.

“That being said I’m not accepting what they’re saying at face value.”

Hospital chiefs ordered an independent three-month review of maternity services at the two hospitals last week.

Hospital campaigners balked at the money hospital chiefs will spend on the review. Both the Save the DGH Campaign and Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd believe the 2008 ruling by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to keep both units open should be binding.

Chair of Save the DGH Campaign Liz Walke, said, “We do not need another maternity review. The money saved on that can be spent on implementing the recommendations from the last maternity review in 2008 which clearly states that different models of staffing are needed to keep both obstetric units open.”

Mr Lloyd said, “I do not understand why more money needs to be spent on yet another review.

“Two things have not changed. The IRP Report in 2008 said consultant-led maternity must remain on both sites and the road link between the DGH and the Conquest is still appalling.”