‘No immediate closure’ ruling for Eastbourne DGH maternity

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CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed assurances there will be no immediate closure to maternity units, but warn they will be keeping a watchful eye on developments.

Hospital bosses have sought to calm speculation over the future of maternity services at Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital in Hastings, promising no knee-jerk reaction to a damning report by health inspectors.

Contrary to reports from Herald sources, NHS Trust chief executive Darren Grayson said, “We would like to stress there are no plans for the closure of either maternity unit.”

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) raised concerns over levels of treatment for mums and babies at both hospitals run by East Sussex Hospitals Trust. The independent health watchdog has given hospital managers until the end of the month to tackle the problem.

Although Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said he was delighted to hear the news, he warned it should be treated with a pinch of salt.

“It does seem clear there are still senior people within the Trust who will stop at nothing to move to a single site. Eastbourne will not accept this and it is essential other alternatives are explored by senior management at DGH to put our minds at rest in the longer term,” said Mr Lloyd.

He added, “The slightest whiff of any future plans to close maternity will be vigorously fought all the way.”

Chair of Save the DGH Campaign Liz Walke said, “This is excellent news and we would like to work with the Trust to ensure the maternity unit is staffed in the best way for the number of births. And then when the CQC or any other body visit they cannot claim the unit is unsafe for patients or staff.

“The Trust must act on this urgently.”

Hospital managers have also come under fire from their own disgruntled staff.

Doctors and nurses at Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital are among the most demotivated and dissatisfied in the country, according to a recent survey.

Disaffected staff, who say they are overwhelmed by work pressure, claim hospital managers are among the worst in the country for engaging with them.

The report from independent health watchdogs found staff received poor training and support from senior managers.

Rob Macey of the GMB union said, “These figures are sadly not a surprise to us.

“We have long been dealing with problems raised by our members on these issues.

“This report shows things have now reached a crisis point and we will now be seeking meetings with directors to seek assurances how the issues raised will be resolved.”

In the Care and Quality Commission’s survey, clinicians said their hands were tied in being able to provide good patient care and they were unsure if their work made a difference to patients’ well-being. Staff who work for the East Sussex Hospitals Trust also suffer some of the most severe bullying from patients and their relatives.Despite the Trust scoring well in health and safety training, staff also fell foul of a high number of work-related injuries.The two hospitals scored the worst possible ratings across 16 different categories in the health regulator’s survey.

Mrs Walke added, “Staff are not able to speak out for fear of their jobs, so this survey should be taken very seriously by the Trust. The campaign group is concerned there are plans going on in the Trust which staff are unhappy about, but yet are unable to express their concerns openly.

A Trust spokesman said bosses had already taken steps towards improving some of the areas of concern. He said, “Aspects of this survey, alongside other feedback we have received from the CQC, indicate where we need to now concentrate our efforts to improve and achieve better results.”