THE CAMPAIGN group which fought tooth and nail to keep maternity services here in Eastbourne is preparing to mobilise its forces once again amid concerns that the controversial move is being mooted once again.
Members of the Save the DGH team were in London this week to meet with a delegation of Sussex MPs to discuss potential threats to the health service.
On the agenda was the prospect of services being downgraded at the DGH later this year.
In 2008, thousands of people backed calls to retain key departments in Eastbourne and at Hastings.
Chief among the concerns were suggestions that the DGH could lose its consultant-led maternity unit, leaving mums-to-be with a potentially difficult trip along the coast to the Conquest.
Now those behind Save the DGH are readying themselves for another battle.
A spokesman for the campaigners said, “We are extremely concerned at the very real prospect of a downgrading of core services at the DGH later this year.
“In September 2008, the people of Eastbourne achieved a significant victory, after the then Health Secretary agreed that maternity services should remain at both Eastbourne and Hastings.
“A series of recommendations were put forward by an Independent Review Panel that were to be instigated.
“All these years later we consider that there has not been a significant enough attempt to enact the terms of that report; working with the people of East Sussex to keep consultant-led maternity, special care baby services and inpatient gynaecology at Eastbourne DGH.
“Eastbourne and the wider area that the DGH serves, now finds itself with the very real possibility of having maternity services downgraded, coronary care reduced, and potentially other significant services lost as well.
“All this at a time when our town and surrounding area is growing significantly, and where local people need and want locally provided core services.
“To add insult to injury, the Trust that runs our hospital has recently spent an astonishing £4million on consultants [as revealed exclusively by the Herald] to tell them how to save money.
“The campaign stands ready to get into full swing again, as it did before, and we would ask local people to be ready to stand with us again to fight any downgrading.”
A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare Trust, which runs the DGH and Conquest, said no decisions had been made regarding potential changes to services.
They said, “For more than a year we have been working in partnership with primary and social care and representatives of local people, including representatives from the ‘Save the DGH’ campaign, on developing a new plan to deliver safe and sustainable health services over the next five to ten years in East Sussex.
“The reason these plans are needed is because the NHS as a whole is facing some of the most significant challenges in its history.
“Demand for services is increasing, we have an ever-aging population with more people living longer with long term conditions while the cost of treatment, equipment, drug therapies and utilities is continually going up.
“For these reasons, it is clear we cannot carry on as we are.
“We are therefore developing with our senior clinicians and GP commissioners a way forward to ensure we will deliver safe, effective and sustainable services for patients across East Sussex.
“These plans will also complement wider NHS services across the whole of Sussex. Any aspects of our plans that represent significant change will be subject to formal consultation later in the year.”
“We understand local people are concerned about the future of their health service and hope they will work with us to help ensure we continue to provide safe, clinically and financially sustainable, high quality healthcare for local people.”