I refer to Norman Baker’s media release on the Better Beginnings publication, published on page 7 of last week’s Express. Mr Baker makes a significant factual error and some very direct and misleading criticisms. Mr Baker’s assertion that all six of the options would result in a reduction of services at the Eastbourne DGH is not accurate. Half of the six options include the provision of consultant-led maternity and in-patient paediatric services at the DGH. All the options are aimed at achieving safe and high quality services for women and children in East Sussex.
Frank Sims, chief officer of High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, said: “We know campaigners feel strongly that consultant-led maternity and in-patient paediatrics should be provided at both Eastbourne and Hastings. We also know from our extensive public engagement that people want safe and high quality services and these have to be our main priorities as GP-led commissioning groups.
“There is a wide range of compelling evidence that has led local clinicians to conclude that we cannot maintain safe consultant-led maternity services on two smaller sites. Since the temporary changes were introduced, there have been significant improvements to safety despite some women being required to travel further, as outlined in our consultation document.
“The local NHS has invested heavily in improving these services since 2007, including recruiting more doctors and midwives across both sites. Despite this, it has become more difficult to maintain high standards of safety. Too many women and children locally were being placed at risk of serious harm in childbirth due to the challenges caused by an inability to recruit sufficient staff.
“We can only move forward with options that we believe are safe. The six options we are therefore consulting on are the only ones we believe can meet the high standards we expect for local women and children.
“We have closely engaged with local MPs throughout this process but are disappointed Mr Baker has decided to boycott the consultation. We would urge Mr Baker to reconsider and have arranged to meet to discuss his concerns.
“The best way for local people to influence these proposals is to get involved in this consultation. Visit www.betterbeginnings-nhs.net to find out more about the facts, how we developed the options and have your say on the future of these important services. We do not have a preferred option of the six. We want as many people as possible to find out more about the options we are proposing and have their say during this consultation.”
Senior Communications Manager, Hailsham and Seaford CCG