Campaigners prepare for a return to battle

HERE we go again! It’s less than five years since the threatened closure of maternity services at the DGH united Eastbourne residents in a way few other issues have done before or since.

The town was filled with Save the DGH posters and banners, and tens of thousands signed a petition against proposals to ditch the obstetric department at either the DGH or the Conquest in Hastings.

Politicians of all persuasions publicly declared their opposition to controversial money-saving cuts and the Herald was inundated with messages of support for the Save the DGH Campaign.

A respected and popular obstetric surgeon resigned in protest and said the closure of surgical maternity services at the DGH would result in the deaths of pregnant women.

Thousands took to the streets to show their disgust at the plans to slash services at the much-loved hospital.

On a memorable September Saturday in 2006 an estimated 5,000 people marched from The Avenue to Kings Drive to protest against the hugely unpopular proposals.

Campaigners, politicians and medical experts were joined by the Bishop of Lewes, and gave rousing speeches in defence of the hospital, questioning the wisdom and the motives of the swingeing cuts.

More marches followed and petitions piled up but despite the massive public outcry the NHS managers seemed determined to push through the closure plans and gave little consideration to alternatives.

The campaign continued unabashed and lead campaigner Liz Walke literally put her money where her mouth was and put her house on the line to underwrite a possible Judicial Review.

Fortunately, this wasn’t necessary, because an independent panel of experts questioned the safety of the closure plan, and their recommendations were supported by the then Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson.

The rest was history. And that’s how it should remain. If reports are true and the hated closure plan has been exhumed, its architects will again have to deal with an army of campaigners ready to kick it back into the grave.