Public meetings set up by NHS to discuss maternity

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HEALTH bosses have set up a series of events for the public to give their views on the future of maternity and children’s services at both the Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH.

The three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in East Sussex, which provide the purse strings for local health provision, are planning to draw up options on how both services could be changed.

In May consultant-led maternity was centralised at the Conquest on The Ridge while the DGH’s unit was turned into one led by midwives after the hospital trust made the decision in March.

The temporary move is set to last 18 months from May this year.

Campaigners from both Hands off the Conquest and Save the DGH fiercely opposed the move by health bosses and strongly believe both hospitals should keep full consultant-led maternity units.

Both groups fought against similar proposals in 2008 when the then Secretary of State overturned NHS bosses’ plans.

Campaigners cited poor road infrastructure between Hastings and Eastbourne.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, believes the congestion along the road has worsened since 2008.

In an inspection in June the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said both maternity and paediatric services at both hospitals met all required standards.

The CCGs are holding two meetings for the public to give their views on both services’ future. There will be one held to discuss maternity on Tuesday, October 29 from 6pm to 8pm at Station Plaza Health Centre, Station Approach. A meeting about paediatric services will take place on Friday, November 8 from 9.30am to 11.30am at Hastings Town Children’s Centre in Waterworks Road.

Dr Roger Elias, a GP in Bexhill and chairman of Hastings and Rother CCG, said: “We want to test and understand the possible opportunities and challenges of the different ways these services could be provided from the perspective of patients and their families. What are the potential benefits of the various models, and what do people have concerns about?”

Feedback from the meetings will be considered and used to develop a series of options. It is hoped the options for long-term change will be subject to formal public consultation beginning in January 2014.

Dr Elias added: “The CCGs supported the temporary changes and are reassured that safety has improved as a result. However the process of reviewing these services is quite separate from the temporary changes. No decisions have been made and it should not be assumed that the temporary arrangements will be the long-term solution. We are genuine in our commitment to talking and listening to the public, patients and local clinicians and considering all the evidence before making any decisions.”