HOSPITAL chief executive Darren Grayson said he is ‘pessimistic’ about retaining full maternity services at the DGH and Conquest Hospital but campaigners say he has a duty keep both open.
Hospital bosses have been criticised by inspectors after they found mothers were receiving a poor level of care in both maternity units. Mr Grayson said the hospitals’ inability to attract the right doctors meant wholesale change to maternity services is needed.
But campaigners slammed hospital managers for failing to find a solution to the deep-rooted staff problems which led to a damning report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
It has given East Sussex Hospitals Trust, which runs the two hospitals, until the end of the month to get its house in order.
A spokesman from the independent health regulators said, “The CQC can confirm concerns have been raised with the Trust around the quality of services being provided to patients in A&E, the maternity unit and the wards. Inspectors identified there were insufficient numbers of staff available to support proper patient care, putting patients at risk.
“They also identified care plans and risk assessments were sometimes not completed or were inaccurate.”
Any regulatory decision that CQC takes is open to challenge by a registered person through a variety of internal and external appeal processes.”
At a local health scrutiny committee last week Mr Grayson said both hospitals had a dreadful reputation for educating trainee maternity doctors and agency staff could be either unreliable or underskilled. He added both maternity units at the DGH and Conquest have been running without trainee obstetricians since October.
“Unless we can find a strategic solution then I personally am quite pessimistic about maternity services in terms of our ability to continue to provide safety,” he said at a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
If the Trust chooses to scrap obstetrics at one of the hospitals, mothers experiencing difficulties in childbirth will face a 21-mile transfer without pain relief, according to campaigners.
Mrs Walke said, “You don’t close down a school because you don’t have enough staff, you just get the staff in to man the facility. They’ve got to look at different ways of staffing.
“If they haven’t done that, then they’ve done a huge injustice to the women of Eastbourne.”
But Mr Grayson, who said hospital bosses were ‘not running an episode of Dad’s Army’, said, “The service is the staff. If we cannot recruit the staff we cannot provide a safe service.”
Mrs Walke argues the Trust is bound to retain full maternity services at both the DGH and Conquest after then Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson ruled they should both stay open in 2008.
Although Mr Grayson issued a statement yesterday (March 17) claiming there are no plans to close either hospital’s obstetric unit, a source close to the Trust said plans to downgrade a unit were being discussed before the CQC’s visit in February.
Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said, “I am shocked at what the CQC statement is reporting.
“I am also angry that the trust should even be contemplating closing one of our maternity wards. It’s all very well the trust suggesting this would only be a temporary measure but frankly I don’t believe them.
“We simply must not let this happen in Eastbourne.
“We saw them off once, when the whole town came together along with all political parties, united in one goal – to save maternity at the DGH.
“And we will, if necessary, see them off again.”