Fears for Crowborough hospital services

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Concerns have been raised over the future of another of Wealden’s community hospitals.

More than 150 people gathered to protest outside Crowborough War Memorial Hospital last weekend after its birthing centre closed for four days.

This was so midwives could be transferred to cover temporary staff shortages at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, 28 miles away.

A 2,100 signature petition set up by the birthing centre’s Women’s Focus Group will be delivered this week to the Clinical Commissioning Group.

Group spokeswoman Tiffany Diamond said: “If we do not speak up the centre could be at risk and local mothers may look elsewhere. It’s use it or lose it.”

Although the centre has now re-opened, closure triggered fears the hospital itself could be under threat, following last month’s downgrading of some services at Uckfield Community Hospital.

One caller, who did not wish to be named, told the Express: “The gradual degeneration of services being provided has come to a head over the last few months. Employees have been told they can cover staff shortages but at a lower pay band. Posts are ‘frozen,’ people are leaving and not being replaced. But the blow came when birthing unit teams were moved to Hastings - that is a long way away. “

Chair of the hospital’s League of Friends, Chantal Wilson said: “It has been stated publicly by the Clinical Commissioning Group that our community hospitals are the jewel in their crown. There are no general hospitals in our area. People must have confidence in local services if they are to use them. Local hospital provision is absolutely vital to save travel and save time. Moving staff to Hastings only concentrates facilities on the South Coast leaving patients in the Weald bereft.”

A Trust spokesman said: “Crowborough is one of five community hospitals we manage across East Sussex providing a range of services to local people. We are committed to working with the local clinical commissioning group, to ensure a wide range of services are available from the hospital. The focus of the NHS is to provide more services closer to people’s homes and community hospitals play a vital role in achieving that goal.

Crowborough Birthing Centre re-opened on Monday. It was only closed temporarily for four days due to staff shortages on the maternity unit at Conquest Hospital in Hastings. This enabled midwifery staff from Crowborough go and work in the much busier unit at the Conquest.”