The shock short-term closure of Crowborough Community Hospital’s birthing centre triggered an immediate response from the community and Wealden MP Charles Hendry.
But last week’s meeting with the Clinical Commisssioning Group (CCG) which plans healthcare in the area, did little to reassure that a similar incident could not happen in future.
Mr Hendry has now written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt suggesting management of both Uckfield and Crowborough hospitals should be switched to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, rather than East Sussex Healthcare Trust.
This follows concerns that mothers-to-be booked into the birthing centre were switched to the Conquest Hospital, Hastings, during the closure. Mr Hendry has also sought the Health Secretary’s guidance on how the change could be brought about.
A transfer would mean expectant mothers using Crowborough’s birthing centre would be supported by the new facilities at Pembury - a relatively short distance away - rather than Hastings where journeys can take upwards of an hour. He has also written to the chief executive of East Sussex Healthcare Trust condemning the way the closure was handled with an ‘appalling lack of information’ being given both to local mothers and their elected representatives.
He said: “This unexpected and badly handled closure raises real questions about the commitment of the Trust to services of our local hospitals in Crowborough and Uckfield.
“It is not acceptable to close a unit in Crowborough without information because of staff pressures the other side of the county. It begs the question whether Crowborough and Uckfield are too far away from the Trust’s main operating bases in Eastbourne and Hastings which accordingly doesn’t understand local issues here. It creates a strong case for looking at whether these two outstanding community hospitals should be transferred to the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust with its excellent new facilities which are so much closer than those in Hastings.”
Meanwhile, Ashley Scarff, spokesman for the CCG, was questioned by local families at a meeting last Thursday. He said ESHT has a contract to provide that service and ‘changing the provider is not the point we are at.’But he warned: “We cannot 100 per cent guarantee Crowborough will always be open but we want to have a genuine conversation with ESHT about whether this was a one-off or if there are underlying difficulties which need to be tackled.”