Campaigners ready to fight cuts to Hastings maternity services

Conquest Hospital, Hastings. 2/2/12
Conquest Hospital, Hastings. 2/2/12

CAMPAIGNERS who fought to keep maternity services at both the Conquest Hospital and the DGH in Eastbourne are preparing once again to fight any plans to downgrade them.

Back in 2008 thousands of people backed calls to retain key departments at both hospitals.

Among the concerns were suggestions that either hospital could lose its consultant-led maternity unit, leaving mums-to-be with a potentially hazardous 20-mile trip along the coast.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, backed this week’s move by Save the DGH campaigners when they met a delegation of Sussex MPs in London to discuss potential threats to the local health service.

She said: “They are singing from the same hymn sheet as us as both groups believe we have to have full maternity services at both hospitals.”

In September 2008, campaigners achieved a significant victory, after the then Health Secretary agreed that maternity services should remain at both hospitals.

The hospital trust recently spent £4 million on consultants to tell them how to save money.

A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both the Conquest and DGH, said no decisions had been made regarding potential changes to services.

He said: “For more than a year we have been working in partnership with primary and social care and representatives of local people on developing a new plan to deliver safe and sustainable health services over the next five to 10 years in East Sussex.

“This is an ongoing process and has involved substantial stakeholder and public engagement, including local MPs, and received significant media attention.

“The reason these plans are needed is because the NHS as a whole is facing some of the most significant challenges in its history.

“Demand for services is increasing, we have an ever-aging population with more people living longer with long-term conditions while the cost of treatment, equipment, drug therapies and utilities is continually going up.

“For these reasons, it is clear we cannot carry on as we are.”