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November 20 2012.

"East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust is intent on creating a two-tier health service". That is the view of MP Norman Baker following reports that the Trust is considering downgrading maternity services at Eastbourne DGH, just days after the Trust's Board decided to approve proposals to strip the hospital of its high-risk and emergency general surgery and orthopaedics departments.

Reports suggest that the Trust is considering temporarily downgrading the consultant-led maternity unit at either the DGH or the Conquest from the 1st of April. The Trust has tried previously to downgrade maternity services, but was batted away in 2008 after the Secretary of State referred the decision to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) who rejected the proposals.

The Eastbourne unit serves thousands of expectant mothers and its downgrading would result in the daunting task of getting over to Hastings at a time when an expectant mother needs to be relaxed and reassured. It could also result in more mothers having to be transported by ambulance and more births taking place in ambulances on the A259.

In a further blow to residents of Seaford and Polegate, last week the ESHT's Board decided to approve proposals to remove the DGH of its high risk and emergency general surgery and orthopaedics departments. At Thursday's board meeting in Bexhill, ESHT confirmed Eastbourne will be losing emergency general surgery and orthopaedics, while keeping stroke care.

Norman says: "I am very concerned by how the Trust is treating my constituents in Polegate and Seaford. They seem intent on creating a two-tier health system locally which will see my constituents having to travel further for emergency surgery and elderly residents who may have suffered a broken hip being subjected to a longer trip for orthopaedic surgery.

"I met with Darren Grayson earlier in the year and after that meeting I publically expressed my concerns that their 'reconfiguration proposals' were the thin of a wedge. We now have rumours that, once again, they are trying to downgrade maternity services. It seems that, worryingly, my concerns were well-founded. Expectant mothers having to give birth on the side of the road because there is no local maternity service available is simply unacceptable. The Trust has got its act together - in a rather unhelpful way."