Almost a third of mothers who began their labour at Eastbourne DGH were transferred to other hospitals including Hastings because of a lack of a consultant-led service.
An survey into maternity services across East Sussex has also found mothers who live in the area served by the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group accounted for the vast majority transfers during labour and after birth with significantly fewer transfers of mothers from other CCG areas.
The survey was conducted by Eastbourne council with the Office for National Statistics and organisers hope the findings will get health bosses to look again at the issue of consultant led services only being at Hastings as opposed to Eastbourne.
Almost 1,700 mothers who gave birth in the county in 2016 took part – 35 per cent of the total number who gave birth last year.
Key points from the survey, to be considered by the council’s scrutiny committee in December, reveal most mothers believe the services to be excellent or good but 17 per cent consider the post-natal services to be poor or very poor; 78 per cent of mothers would wish to give birth at a location with doctors on site; 93 per cent of mothers served by the Eastbourne, Hailsham, and Seaford CCG would choose to give birth at Eastbourne DGH if a full obstetric service were available; of the 312 mothers who had a pre-natal appointment with a consultant in Eastbourne, 85 per cent did not give birth at Eastbourne DGH and of those mothers who started labour at Eastbourne DGH, 27 per cent were transferred during labour, principally to Hastings.
Eastbourne council leader David Tutt said, “The council has continued to hold and sustain a strong interest in this area of health service provision, particularly due to the loss of a full obstetric service at the DGH and I welcome this survey as the first in-depth research undertaken since that change.”
Survey organiser Robert Smart said, “The importance of this unique aspect of health care cannot be over-stated and it is imperative such services meet the needs of the community in a fair, equitable and high-quality way. A huge amount of information has been collated and presented in this survey and it is my wish the feedback received is fully embraced by service providers and commissioners in assessing current and future provision.”
Senior midwife Jo Shayler at the hospitals said, “Our priority is to provide high quality, safe maternity services for women. All pregnant women who live in Eastbourne receive a full ante and post-natal service at the DGH. Local women with certain medical conditions or who develop complications during pregnancy are advised to give birth at the obstetric unit at the Conquest. Those women are fully informed of our transfer rate which in 2016 was 18.7 per cent and compares favourably with the expected national average of 25 per cent. The report shows most mothers believe the service at Eastbourne is excellent.”