Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 15:23 UK

Johnson defends maternity battles

Alan Johnson at St Michael's Hospice
Alan Johnson was visiting St Michael's Hospice in Hastings

The Health Secretary has defended the process which sparked a two-and-half year battle to save maternity services at two hospitals in East Sussex.

Health bosses decided last December to boost services in Hastings, while downgrading those in Eastbourne.

But Alan Johnson threw out the plans earlier this month after they were reviewed by an independent panel.

He acknowledged the distress caused by the process but said the right decision had now been reached.

Thousands of people in Hastings and Eastbourne took to the streets to protest at plans by the East Sussex Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to reorganise maternity services.

'The system works'

The issue was raised in the House of Commons by local MPs and protesters met the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Alan Johnson defends policy

"The clinicians have to look at what is best for their area," said Mr Johnson.

"As I understand it there were clinicians arguing that the best way to reconfigure maternity services was to have one consultant-led obstetric unit in Hastings," said Mr Johnson.

"It would be wrong if the proposal was judged by politicians without any clinical interface but that has not been the case.

"This has shown that the system works."

East Sussex Downs and Weald PCT and Hastings and Rother PCT are to publish new proposals for the county's maternity services on Friday.

Mr Johnson was in St Leonards on Monday to visit St Michael's Hospice at the invitation of Hastings and Rye MP Michael Foster.

The hospice has recently opened a new extension built with 380,000 government funding.




SEE ALSO
Threatened maternity unit saved
04 Sep 08 |  Sussex

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