The Health Overview Scrutiny Committee today (Monday 28th July) agreed the changes outlined below were best way to ensure safe, high quality services for women and children.
Health bosses in East Sussex have decided to keep Crowborough Birthing Centre open.
At a joint meeting yesterday the three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) agreed unanimously to move specialist maternity and paediatric services permanently to Hastings.
The CCGs for East Sussex met jointly in Eastbourne to agree the outcome of the Better Beginnings consultation on six options for the future of local NHS maternity, paediatric and emergency gynaecology services.
It became clear early on in the meeting that the CCGs were going to choose either Options 5 or 6. Both options included the continuation of the Midwife-led Unit at Crowborough Hospital, but the difference between the two was the location of specialist services on the Sussex coast.
Now the future of the Birthing Centre in Crowborough is secure, Dr Elizabeth Gill, the Clinical Chair of High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, told CrowboroughLife the next stage is extend services, including anti-natal scanning, and improve access to patients.
Richard Hallett, Birthing Centre Representative for the Friends of Crowborough Hospital said:
The Friends of Crowborough Hospital are delighted that the CCGs have recognised the importance of, and strong local support for, the excellent work of the Crowborough Birthing Centre by selecting an option for its continued commissioning.
We are particularly pleased that they have recognised the specific issues we raised around consistency of care for women in High Weald who access maternity services from a number of different providers.
We look forward to supporting and working with the local CCG to address these issues and ensure that the Crowborough Birthing Centre is properly linked to the local obstetric providers at Pembury and Princess Royal Hospitals, so that local women are able to access the maternity care they want and that the Crowborough Birthing Centre, once again, becomes a thriving local maternity care centre.
The real decision the CCGs were confronted with at yesterday’s meeting was whether to choose Eastbourne or Hastings as the site for specialist maternity and paediatric services. The other Hospital would get a Midwife-led Birthing Unit and a Paediatric Assessment Unit.
The deciding factor that led to Hastings being chosen as the preferred location was the high levels of deprivation in Hastings. The borough is the 19th most deprived area in England – the health inequalities discussed at the meeting included smoking, obesity, alcohol misuse, teenage pregnancy and domestic abuse.
Other factors mentioned included birth predictions, car ownership, and the proximity to other maternity units.
The number of births in Eastbourne is expected to fall by a greater amount than Hastings. In the period to 2021, it is estimated there will be 24% fewer births in Eastbourne; the number in Hastings and Lewes is expected to fall by 10%; with Rother and Wealden remaining fairly static.
It was said that Eastbourne has a greater proportions of families owning cars compared to Hastings. It was also mentioned that the western side of the county is nearer to alternative maternity facilities run by neighbouring NHS Trusts, namely the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
East Sussex NHS Trust downgraded maternity services at Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH) in May 2013 over safety fears primarily because of staff shortages.
The meeting heard that since the decision was taken the number of serious maternity incidents had fallen to 5 in the 12 months since the interim changes (down from 15 before the change).
At the close of the meeting, campaigners from the “Save the DGH” campaign made some forthright comments concerning the permanent removal of Consultant-led maternity and paediatrics at the Hospital, and they expressed their fears about the journey times to Hastings.
Afterwards Liz Walke, Chair of the “Save the DGH” Campaign, told CrowboroughLife:
We are delighted that Crowborough Birthing unit has been saved. It is very safe ONLY because if something unexpectedly happens to a women in labour she is quickly transferred to Pembury which takes well under 30 minutes.
Sadly those who use the Eastbourne Midwife-led unit cannot access any obstetric services in under 30 minutes if there is an emergency and we therefore believe this made the Eastbourne unit very unsafe as it is quite isolated from obstetric care.
We are extremely worried and hold the local CCG’s responsible for any tragedies which now may happen.
After the meeting, the Chairs of the three CCGs issued a joint statement:
We fully understand the concerns expressed by some people about the prospect of traveling further to access certain services and know that many people would prefer us to provide consultant-led maternity and inpatient paediatrics over two sites. However we know it is not possible to do this safely in East Sussex and therefore a difficult decision had to be made.
The evidence from this process is clear and compelling – we are able to provide safer, better services by centering consultant-led maternity and inpatient paediatric care around a single site, whilst ensuring choice and access to a range of services across East Sussex. It is not the case that greater travel distances means a greater risk for local people and this has been clearly demonstrated by previous experience, from what we have learned during the temporary configuration, from national evidence of best practice and from our extensive public and clinical consultation.
This is the right solution to ensure safe and high quality services for local women and children in the long term.
In relation to Crowborough the Chairs of the CCGs said the following in their joint statement:
In respect of maternity services at Crowborough, CCGs can now work with local service users and NHS providers to address of issues raised as part of the Better Beginnings process. These relate mainly to the consistency of care for women who currently receive services from both East Sussex Healthcare Trust and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.