‘WE’LL fight tooth and nail’ – that’s the message from the hundreds of people who protested against plans to downgrade cardiac and maternity services at the DGH.
More than 200 people joined Liz Walke and the Save The DGH campaign team for an early start on Wednesday morning (September 28) at the hospital in Kings Drive.
The group, with support from Eastbourne’s MP Stephen Lloyd, criticised plans by NHS Sussex to centralise vital 24-hour heart attack treatment at the DGH’s sister site in Hastings and to cut maternity services.
Five years ago, thousands of people marched to protest against plans to move consultant-led maternity to the Conquest but the idea is now back on the table.
Mrs Walke said, “I think it went really well.
“We were hoping for at least 50 people and thought if it was 100 people it would be even better but it looks like at least 200 people turned out.
“I think it gives us a mandate to keep us fighting. A lot of the people came up to me and said ‘we will fight tooth and nail’.”
The protest, which lasted around 15 minutes, was followed by the trust’s AGM and a board meeting.
Mr Lloyd has told the Herald he is profoundly concerned changes appeared to be on the cards at Eastbourne’s hospital, adding, “I’m absolutely thrilled that at such short notice and so early in the morning so many Eastbourne residents turned up to support the DGH campaign concerns about possible downgrading of maternity and cardiology.
“My message to the trust is simple – the people of Eastbourne, Willingdon and surrounding areas love our local hospital, know we are a growing town and will not accept a downgrade of services because we know that will have a detrimental effect to the long term for Eastbourne’s prosperity and success.”
After the protest, Mr Lloyd and Mrs Walke handed over a strongly-worded letter to the trust saying Save The DGH opposed the downgrading of the maternity unit at the hospital and that it could not understand the waste of public money on the further review going over ground already covered less than three years ago.
The town’s former MP Nigel Waterson, who is part of the Save the DGH campaign group, also attended the protest.
A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said, “We recognise that local people have views and opinions about their local health service and would like to make it clear that no decisions have been made.”
He added that the board meeting had focused on work undertaken so far to develop models of care for eight areas including A&E, Cardiology, Maternity and Paediatrics.
He continued, “The models of care set out what the Trust will deliver but not how this will be configured.
“The board discussed the next stages of the process as the Trust, in consultation with partners, patients and the public, will continue to refine and develop proposals further considering how the proposed models of care can be delivered.
“This will include looking at services being more efficient, redesigning pathways for example by moving services closer to people’s homes in the community and in some cases reconfiguring a service.
“This work is being undertaken with the involvement of the East Sussex County Council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee who will decide whether formal consultation is required on any of the Trust’s proposals.”