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My letter to the Department of Health on maternity services

May 31, 2008

Dear Dr Barrett,

Re: Your current review of our PCTs decision-making on local maternity services

I am writing in support of the Save the DGH and Hands Off the Conquest campaigns to retain consultant-led maternity units in both Eastbourne and Hastings.

I am sure that you will be getting many letters and emails from local people. This is a keenly felt issue along our part of the South Coast.

I am writing not only in my capacity as parliamentary campaigner for the Liberal Democrats in Hastings and Rye, but also as a new father. In fact, I hope that it will be possible for me to come and talk to you in person about my (and my partner’s) experience of local services.

I became a father for the first time in November last year. My partner laboured at home as planned, but there were problems and we needed to transfer to hospital. You will appreciate that, having already been in labour for some hours by then, this transfer was traumatic. Thankfully, we were at the hospital in less than 20 minutes, and we live only a short distance from the hospital. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be stuck in the rush hour on the A259 – apparently the ninth worst road in the country – whether this be Eastbourne to Hastings, or vice versa.

The research that I have seen in the course of this campaign points to the dangers that increased journey times have in respect of risk in emergency situations. Also, to the dangers of decreasing numbers of senior clinicians.

I believe the respective campaigners when they say that this and other information that they have provided appears to have been disregarded by local PCTs.

And I feel strongly that the decision that has been taken by them is not in the interests of safe, sustainable and accessible local services. It is driven by cost.

When we are the fourth most successful economy in the world, it is right that local parents should have access to high quality essential health services. I hope your review will ensure this for the people of Eastbourne and Hastings, and will overturn the decision of the PCTs.

Many parents are counting on you.

[What do you think?]

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