Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 12:14 UK

Threatened maternity unit saved

Eastbourne District General Hospital
Eastbourne hospital will retain its full maternity unit

Plans to downgrade maternity services at an East Sussex hospital have been rejected by an independent panel.

NHS bosses wanted to upgrade the maternity unit at Conquest Hospital, Hastings, leaving Eastbourne District General with midwife-led care only.

But the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) rejected the plans because they "had not made a clear case for safer and more sustainable services".

The two primary care trusts said they accepted its recommendations.

Local people were convinced that these proposals posed risks to babies and mothers and they have supported our campaign magnificently
Nigel Waterson

Dr Peter Barrett, chairman of the IRP, said: "The needs of local women and their families were at the heart of this review.

"Having considered all the evidence available, visited both hospitals and met with a wide range of local people, we concluded that women's access to, and choice of, services would be seriously compromised if the proposals were implemented.

"Consultant-led maternity services must remain at both hospitals and we strongly support the Primary Care Trusts' proposals to improve antenatal and postnatal care, as well as associated outreach services, which should be implemented without delay."

The two primary care trusts now have a month to produce a new proposal based on the IRP's report.

'People power'

Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson said: "This is an amazing result for people power.

"Local people were convinced that these proposals posed risks to babies and mothers and they have supported our campaign magnificently.

"They have marched, signed our petition and contributed generously to the legal challenge. I could not be prouder of my constituents."

Protesters with the Christmas card
Protesters wanted both towns to have full maternity services
Norman Baker MP, whose constituency covers Seaford and Polegate, and East Sussex County Council, have also welcomed the decision to retain full maternity services in Eastbourne.

Vanessa Harris, chief executive of East Sussex PCTs, said, "I confirm that we accept its recommendations.

"We are determined to provide the very best services for local mothers and children and we will now work up a model of care that ensures the continuation of consultant-led maternity services, special care baby services and inpatient gynaecology services in both Hastings and Eastbourne."

She added: "The IRP advice indicates quite clearly that the PCTs faced a very tough and very close decision.

"Should we have placed greater emphasis upon the time it would take pregnant women to travel to a consultant-led maternity unit or greater emphasis upon the need for the very best consultant skills training?

"We did our best to consider these competing concerns and resolved to base consultant-led maternity services in Hastings alone."


Thousands protested against the plans

Mid Sussex Today Maternity - shock decision - 10 hrs ago
Worthing Today Maternity unit spared after hospital review - 11 hrs ago
Rye and Battle Observer Delight over DGH victory - 17 hrs ago
Biggleswade Chronicle Maternity unit spared after hospital review - 17 hrs ago

Closure plan for maternity unit
14 Dec 07 |  Sussex

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