CCGS agree outcome of Better Beginnings consultation

East Sussex CCGs met jointly in public yesterday (Wednesday June 25) to agree the outcome of the Better Beginnings consultation on six options for the future of local NHS maternity, paediatric and emergency gynaecology services.

After careful consideration, all three CCG governing bodies agreed that option 6 was the best way to ensure safe and high quality services for local women and children in the long term.

This option results in the following configuration of services:

  • Birthing services retained at all three current sites
  • Consultant-led maternity services provided at the Conquest Hospital, Hastings
  • Two midwife-led birthing units provided - at Crowborough and Eastbourne
  • Short-stay paediatric assessment units provided at both Eastbourne and Hastings. 
  • In-patient (overnight) paediatrics, the special care baby unit and emergency gynaecology co-located at the same site as the consultant-led maternity service. 

Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG chair Dr Martin Writer said:: “As local clinicians we agree this is the best possible solution to achieving safe and high quality services for women and children in East Sussex.

“These services, particularly maternity, were in urgent need of reform to ensure safe and high quality care now and in the future. We arrived at this decision after careful consideration of all available evidence including extensive public and clinical consultation that has been subject to rigorous scrutiny.“

This configuration ensures birthing services will continue to be available at all three locations. It was identified as the preferred model by the options appraisal, the recommendation from East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) and a majority of public consultation respondents.

Dr Writer added:  “We have listened to feedback from the public, HOSC, local clinicians and other stakeholders stating a clear preference in favour of retaining birthing services at all three sites to enable greater choice for local women.

“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 centring 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.”

Factors that led to Hastings being chosen as the preferred location for centralised services included:

  • Relatively high levels of deprivation in Hastings affecting people’s access to services 
  • The timing and costs of implementing this option in relation to the others
  • Evidence since the temporary changes of May 2013 shows safety has greatly improved under this configuration.

The decision to co-locate in-patient paediatrics, the special care baby unit and emergency gynaecology services on a single site was supported by local and national clinical evidence in developing the six options and was supported by HOSC.

In respect of paediatrics, the vast majority of children do not require an overnight stay and will be treated at the SSPAUs at both Eastbourne and Hastings. SSPAUs will continue to provide outpatients and emergency care for children at both sites.

In cases where children require an overnight stay, they will be transferred if necessary to the inpatient unit at the Conquest hospital. CCGs are currently reviewing the opening hours of SSPAUs to minimise the number of children requiring transfer out of hours.

Dr Writer added: “We know that we can provide a better quality of service for paediatric inpatients, babies requiring special care women requiring emergency gynaecology treatment, even though some patients may need to travel further.

“We know that since the temporary changes of May 2013 we have been able to offer much safer consultant-led maternity services with this configuration. Now that a permanent decision has been made we will work with NHS providers, service users, the local authority and other partners to ensure we can provide the best possible services under this option."

HOSC will meet on 10 July to consider whether the CCGs’ decisions are in the best interest of the local health services. 

For more information visit the Better Beginnings consultation website.

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