Eastbourne MP calls for review of maternity services

Caroline Ansell SUS-151014-105826001
Caroline Ansell SUS-151014-105826001

Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell will ask the new leadership of East Sussex Healthcare Trust to look again at the decision to remove services including consultant-led maternity and paediatrics from the town.

Branding the move of the units to Hastings ‘ill-thought-out’, the MP said the decisions, made under a now ‘discredited leadership’, should be reviewed once a new chief executive and chairman are appointed.

The trust, which runs Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital in Hastings, was rated ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission in September.

“I will be making clear to the new trust leaders that the decision to move these services was detrimental to the people of Eastbourne, and it must be reviewed once they are in post,” said Caroline.

“The decisions were made under a now discredited management team and so, in my view, they are null and void, especially in regard to patient transport times from Eastbourne to Hastings.

“When I met with the Trust Development Authority last week to discuss special measures, I made my views very clear on this subject.

“However, I accept that the priority of the TDA at the moment is to stabilise the situation at the trust and to move it forward.”

“Appointing a chairman and chief executive is a priority to achieve that forward momentum, but I can assure residents that I will be knocking on both their doors once they are in post to discuss how the decision to move these service can be looked at again.

“It may be the case that the decision is upheld, but I need to be satisfied, as does the community, that it was a decision competently made.”

Health bosses agreed to permanently switch consultant-led maternity and paediatric services from Eastbourne to Hastings in June 2014.

Caroline said her ‘frank’ but ‘constructive’ discussion with the TDA showed everyone wanted to get the trust ‘back up and running’.

The meeting with the TDA on Friday was the first in series by Caroline to provide support for the trust as it rebuilds confidence with the public.

“We have much to be proud of at the trust, especially the staff, but there is hard work to be done to get it out of special measures,” she said.

“There is no doubt that the TDA has very able and experienced staff at the helm to achieve it.”

Liz Walke, chair of campaign group Save the DGH, said: “Any independent body will see that care service need to be provided at Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital.

“They need to de-merge the hospitals or bring the services back at the very least. We are rock bottom. Let’s see what is possible. Let’s see if there is a different way forward.”

She said the trust will only be able to improve if the new leaders look at ‘innovative ways’ to make this happen – adding people might be inclined to go back to the NHS in Eastbourne is services came back too.

However speaking at a meeting of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust on September 30, acting chair of the board Susan Bernhauser said a reconfiguration was ‘not up for debate’ but added the trust will try to make people’s lives ‘far less challenging’.

Michael Ensor, chairman of East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny (HOSC) Committee said members would not reconsidering any changes to maternity provision – after they were moved in 2014.

A spokesman for East Sussex CCGs said: “The CQC report is clear that day-to-day problems witnessed in maternity services are due to staffing levels. “Prior to temporary reconfiguration in May 2013, the challenge of maintaining safe staffing levels over two sites was seriously compromising patient safety, and that is what led to the Better Beginnings review that made those changes permanent.

“It is inconceivable that safety or quality could be improved by resuming consultant-led services over two sites, and we are confident that the current configuration is the safest and best option for local mothers and babies.”

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