More than 1,000 people joined campaigners to fight the downgrading of services at the DGH on Saturday (September 7).
The old, the young, mums-to-be and families joined Save the DGH campaign chairman Liz Walke, her team and the town’s MP Stephen Lloyd to send a defiant message to the trust that runs the hospital, ‘enough is enough’.
The rain held off for the best part of the protest which saw crowds set off at 10am from Sussex Downs College and walk around the perimeter of the hospital.
The move comes four months after the Eastbourne hospital become a stand alone midwifery-led maternity unit and the changes also mean that children are no longer able to stay overnight at the DGH Friston Ward.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHNT), which runs the hospital, said the temporary move had been made on the grounds of safety but it came as a blow to campaigners and followed a decision in November last year by the board of the trust to vote in favour of plans to centralise emergency general surgery and emergency orthopaedics at the Conquest in Hastings, with specialist stroke care remaining at the DGH. This was later backed by NHS Sussex.
Mum-of-four Liz Walke wants core services at both hospitals.
She thanked people for turning out in support, adding, “Please don’t think the fight is over and it’s not worth fighting.
“If we don’t fight these services will go. It’s not just maternity and paediatrics we’re talking about all the other services we need in a hurry.”
Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, who joined Mrs Walke and Eastbourne mayor Councillor Mike Thompson in giving a speech, added, “I’m so proud of you and so proud of Eastbourne, and so proud of all the political parties, every single one of them, who united at the hip to retain core services in our hospital.
“But I’m angry that we keep having to fight this battle, we’re the fastest growing town in East Sussex.
“I tell you one thing, we’re never going to give up.”
Afterwards residents were pictured with a giant postcard signed by thousands of supporters which has broken the world record for the largest postcard.
Polegate and Seaford MP Norman Baker was unable to join in the march due to constituency duties but issued a statement, saying, “The people who live in the catchment area of the DGH, and I include my constituents in Polegate, Seaford, East Dean and Alfriston, value our hospital here in Eastbourne, and value the people who work within it, the doctors, the nurses, and indeed all the non-medical staff as well.”