Senior staff want maternity unit closed, warns MP

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EASTBOURNE’S MP has accused senior hospital staff of conspiring to close a maternity unit in a parliamentary debate - despite the trust’s chief executive saying there are ‘no plans’ to do so.

Stephen Lloyd claimed some high-ranking doctors and managers were working from within to close a maternity unit at either Eastbourne DGH or Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

He said that they were using the damning Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on the hospitals’ poor safety to further their plans for closure, although a hospital spokesman denied this and stressed there are ‘no plans for the closure of either maternity (obstetric) unit’.

When hospital chiefs last threatened to close down a maternity unit in 2008, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) - an expert on changes to the NHS - ruled both maternity units should stay open.

Mr Lloyd said, “I have never been a conspiracy theorist, but there is an exception to every rule.

“Just because I do not believe that there are conspiracies everywhere does not mean that they cannot sometimes exist.

“I have developed some good contacts in the Trust and, sadly, I must tell the minister that I believe that the single-siters who originally wanted to move to one consultant-led maternity service have not gone away, despite being turned down by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

“I am afraid that they have used the pretext of the Care Quality Commission report to begin the process of moving to a single site.”

Darren Grayson, chief executive of East Sussex Hospitals Trust, which runs the two hospitals, admitted senior doctors have said they are worried about recruiting and keeping the right doctors for both maternity units, but denied any plans for closure.

The Trust has a shortage of middle-grade doctors and are paying double for temporary staff to plug the gaps, according to Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd.

Ms Rudd, who led the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday, March 23, said the Trust is spending £18,000 per month for each temporary doctor.

Chair of the Save the DGH Campaign Liz Walke, who fought off plans for closure last time, said the Trust must explore different staffing solutions.

“There are definitely people working within the Trust who want to close maternity (obstetrics) at Eastbourne,” she claimed.

“Those people are still in post and still working to this end.

“The Royal College of Obstetricians supports the move to a more consultant-delivered service which would solve the problem of not being able to recruit middle-grade doctors.

“We have been saying this since we started campaigning in 2006.”

Inspectors from the CQC said maternity and Accident and Emergency units were undermanned and putting patients at risk.

The CQC has given the Trust until tomorrow (Thursday, March 31) to address these problems.