THE future of maternity services at both the Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH is again under the spotlight.
NHS bosses said a formal 12-week public consultation is likely to start in the autumn this year.
Meanwhile the three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which hold the purse strings for healthcare services in East Sussex, are inviting the public to give their views in helping shape options for the future of maternity and paediatric services.
In May consultant-led maternity was centralised at the Conquest while the DGH’s unit was turned into one led by midwives. The temporary move is set to last 18 months.
The decision on how these services will be offered in the longer term is the responsibility of the CCGs in East Sussex.
Campaigners from both Hands off the Conquest and Save the DGH fiercely opposed health bosses’ move to centralise maternity at the Conquest and strongly believe both hospitals should keep full consultant-led maternity units.
Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “Maternity should be at both hospitals because it’s a core service. Nothing has changed from our old arguments. The road between Eastbourne and Hastings is even busier now.”
Dr Greg Wilcox, Hastings GP and clinical chief officer of Hastings and Rother CCG, said: “The CCGs are fully committed to establishing safe, high-quality and sustainable health services for women and children in East Sussex in the longer term.
“We want the public and patients to consider the case for changing these services and help inform options for how they might be delivered in future in a way that meets the needs of local families. There are no proposals for change as yet. We are seeking the public’s help in developing future options.”
Health professionals across Sussex have agreed a set of standards for maternity and paediatric care based on best practice and developed a strategy, called the Case for Change.
It indicates that birth numbers in excess of 2,500 per unit are required to ensure an obstetric-led maternity service can meet the required standards and be safely sustained. Birth rates at both units are significantly below that, with the rate being 1,865 at the Conquest and 1,973 at the DGH in 2012/13.
The CCGs are inviting the public and other stakeholders to respond and feed back to the Case for Change, which has been published on the CCG websites.
This summer they will be holding events, workshops and focus groups with the public. Interviews will be conducted with patients who have used maternity and paediatric services before and since the temporary changes in order to gain insight about their experiences.
For further information and to access the online survey visit www.hastingsandrotherccg.nhs.uk. To register for updates or take part in workshops email HRCCG.Betterbeginnings@nhs.net.