Sussex

Staff anger at Eastbourne hospital downgrade plan

Eastbourne District General Hospital
Image caption Under the plans, Hastings would provide specialist care and Eastbourne services would be downgraded

Staff at Eastbourne District General Hospital have met NHS bosses over proposals to downgrade services amid claims that patient care will suffer.

NHS managers have proposed a temporary downgrade of the hospital's maternity and paediatric services to cope with staffing shortages.

The board of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust will make a decision on Friday.

One paediatric nurse, who asked not to be named, said staff were devastated for their patients.

She said: "It's going to mean that many more children will have to make journeys across to Hastings at a time when they are particularly vulnerable.

"They're sick. Their families are vulnerable. And I think it's going to have massive implications for children who are sick and for children who are long-term disabled."

The NHS trust said the changes were being brought in for safety reasons because it was unable to recruit suitable specialist doctors which had led to an over-reliance on temporary and agency staff.

'Better service'

Several options are being considered, but the trust has said its preferred plan is to have consultant-led obstetric services, neonatal services including the special care baby unit, in-patient paediatric services and emergency gynaecology services at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

Eastbourne hospital would have a stand-alone midwifery-led maternity unit and enhanced paediatric care.

Paediatrician Dr David Scott said: "They [patients] will get a better service if they go to Hastings because they will get staff who will be better trained.

"There will be greater consultant availability so they will see more senior better trained staff. It will also allow us to increase the levels of nursing care available on the ward."

Liz Walke, from the campaign group Save the DGH, which opposes the changes at Eastbourne, said: "We would like an independent body coming in and looking at the whole organisation to see if they can do something better and actually reorganise the services so that both hospitals keep their core services."

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