Hands off the DGH: Here we go again

THE PROSPECT of a severely downgraded DGH has reared its ugly head once more.

Maternity, paediatrics and emergency surgery among a host of services now under threat.

Documents handed to the Herald this week show yet-to-be-announced plans to cut back on a string of vital departments, with some shared with the Conquest in Hastings, and others removed altogether.

Among the most alarming revelations is that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust is recommending either the DGH or its sister hospital lose its consultant-led maternity unit – despite backing down over the same proposal in 2008.

Four years ago local people mobilised under the banner of Save The DGH and were vocal in their opposition, with a seafront march involving thousands of people helping to give the controversial plans a bloody nose.

Now it seems the trust is determined to push on with the idea which would see a midwife-led unit retained at whichever centre lost its consultants.

Were Eastbourne to lose its full maternity service – a decision which is deemed most likely because of Hastings’ higher levels of young mums and deprivation – any parents living locally who run into complications during birth could face having to travel 13 miles along the coast for treatment on a road notorious for its tailbacks.

The Trust originally approved the plans for a single-site consultant led unit but saw its decision over-ruled by the then Secretary of State after an independent panel said both towns needed their own specialist department.

Now it is not just maternity which is under threat.

The same document seen by the Herald shows the trust is also recommending a single-site inpatient facility for paediatrics, childcare and emergency and planned surgery.

Specialist stroke care is also being earmarked for centralising at one site - while the DGH is likely to retain a trauma unit or an emergency department – but not both, although the trust says A&E will survive at each hospital in one form or another.

The news has arrived like a hammer blow to the band of local campaigners who have continued to fight for better services locally after initially coming together to fight the original maternity threat.

Stephen Lloyd (pictured), the town’s MP, was the first to speak out. He said, “These are horrifying proposals and were they to be implemented, I greatly fear for the long-term sustainability of DGH.

“They are even worse than we expected. I appreciate there are serious financial considerations for the trust but the sheer depth and breadth of the proposed closures and downgrades of our core services are totally unacceptable.”

Liz Walke, chairman of Save The DGH, added, “Once again they are trying to downgrade maternity to a midwife-led unit and also take away all in-patient paediatric beds. How dare they.”