Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

More home births plan is welcomed

Eastbourne District General Hospital
The PCTs were told to keep consultant-led units on two hospital sites

More women will be helped to give birth at home or in a specialist birthing centre, according to a report into maternity services in East Sussex.

The new draft plan sets out how maternity services will work over the next three years.

Two primary care trusts had wanted to downgrade services at Eastbourne District General but the scheme was vetoed after local people protested.

Campaigner Liz Walke said the new plan was a move in the right direction.

NHS bosses announced in December 2007 that they wanted to upgrade the maternity unit at Conquest Hospital, Hastings, leaving Eastbourne District General with midwife-led care only.

But they were forced into a U-turn last year by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

'Maternity network'

The new proposals are based on having consultant-led maternity units at both hospitals and a midwife-led birth centre at Crowborough.

Community services, with better access to midwives and ante-natal care, will be improved.

And a "maternity network" will be developed between Eastbourne, Hastings and Brighton.

"We have worked hard, in co-operation with clinicians and local people, to develop proposals which will deliver top quality services in the years ahead," said Mike Wood, chief executive of NHS East Sussex Downs and Weald and NHS Hastings and Rother.

Ms Walke, who helped develop the strategy, said: "For a first start I think it is very good.

"We have got to keep our eyes focused on what we have fought for.

"One of the things we would ideally like is midwife-led unit in each hospital so that you can have a home-like environment, then if anything goes wrong suddenly next door there is a consultant available."

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