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MORE than a quarter of pregnant women in labour at a midwife-led maternity unit had to be transferred to another hospital, a survey has found.
A report released today by Eastbourne Borough Council reveals the results of a questionnaire filled out by almost 1,700 mothers who gave birth in East Sussex during 2016.
Campaigners had unsuccessfully fought in 2014 to stop Eastbourne District General Hospital’s (DGH) maternity unit from being downgraded from consultant-led to midwife-led.
At-risk women or those who develop complications are now usually transferred to Conquest Hospital in St Leonards instead.
Members of the Save the DGH said the longer journey would put women and babies at risk.
The survey found 27 per cent of women in labour who responded said they had to be transferred from Eastbourne.
However, most believed services at the DGH were excellent or good.
More than 90 per cent of mothers living in the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group area said they would choose to give birth at Eastbourne if a full consultant service was available.
Almost 80 per cent said they would prefer to give birth at a location with doctors on site.
Of the 312 mothers who had a pre-natal appointment with a consultant in Eastbourne, 85 per cent did not give birth there.
Eastbourne councillor Robert Smart, who came up with the idea of the survey, said: “The importance of this unique aspect of health care cannot be overstated and it is imperative such services meet the needs of the community in a fair, equitable and high-quality way.
“It is my sincere wish the feedback received is fully embraced by service providers and commissioners in assessing current and future provision.”
Save the DGH campaigner Liz Walke said: “This review confirms what we’ve been saying all along.
“To have to transfer to another hospital more than 20 miles away causes huge anxiety, increased discomfort and, we believe, added risk to mother and baby which is totally unacceptable.
“This needs to be addressed urgently with consultant-led maternity services coming back to the DGH as soon as physically possible.”
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust senior midwife Jo Shayler said: “We welcome the feedback of women in this report.
“All pregnant women who live in Eastbourne receive a full ante and post-natal service locally at Eastbourne DGH.”
The trust said its overall transfer rate for 2016 was 18.7 per cent, which is better than the national average of 25 per cent.
Source: The Argus