FORTY-two per cent of the babies born to my neighbours this century could not be properly cared for at the Conquest because, as the consultants say, ‘staff with the required competencies are not available 24/7’.
Michael Foster, who in 2008 seemed to be the only person apart from me to research the problem in detail, reported that about 30 per cent of Conquest cases overall had to be sent to London, Winchester and so on.
The consultants, their midwives, nurses and staff have worked magnificently with ‘immediate unplanned action’ to overcome the difficulties cause by obscurantists opposing what is plainly necessary. They must be listened to.
My researches in 2008 showed that NHS infant mortality was poor by European standards, being nearly double that of Sweden. At that time both Eastbourne District General and the Conquest ranked officially only middling in a poorly organised national system known to contain far too many small units.
Even in 2008 I found that, as I have just heard the trust say, there are not nearly enough ‘suitable doctors’ (in the consultants’ words) in the country to staff both units.
Because (as they say) of a ‘significant increase in the complexity of maternity cases’ more and more specialists are required. A paediatrician who can treat a clubbed foot cannot treat a brain tumour and vice versa and so on.
A greater variety of experts is needed year by year. I cannot imagine why anybody should want to apply the words ‘save’ or ‘hands’ off’ to a system which managerially doesn’t work, however dedicated the staff.
There is a short-term and a permanent solution to meet the unwritten American doctrine that if surgery is required it should begin in 30 minutes. Today the standard time for traffic via Battle between the two hospitals is 40 minutes.
At 10.30am on Friday it had risen to 44 minutes and could briefly be longer. With flashing lights this can be greatly reduced, but at points of difficulty, such as Battle High Street, the county council should install traffic lights triggered by radio signals from ambulances to clear the road ahead.
Long-term the solution is simple. One glance at the map shows the link road will bring a substantial reduction of transit time between the hospitals. Those protestors must not be allowed to put mothers and babies at risk.
DEREK J COLE