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Action needed on high incidents of stillbirths in Eastbourne

 An all-party oversight committee is calling on the Government to instigate an inquiry into the high level of stillbirths in Eastbourne and on the East Sussex Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) to commission an independent review of the consequences of the closure of obstetrics led maternity services at Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH).

Eastbourne Borough Council’s Scrutiny Committee also expressed “disappointment” that no representatives from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which operates the Eastbourne DGH, attended the meeting to discuss the Review of East Sussex Maternity Services.

The Review – a survey of 1,700 mothers who gave birth in East Sussex in 2016 – was published earlier this year. 

The Scrutiny Committee, which met last Monday night (December 4), expressed concern over figures from East Sussex Healthcare Trust, with follow-up freedom of information requests from campaign group Save The DGH, which showed that stillbirths in Eastbourne were twice the national average. 

National figures showed that 4 in every 1,000 pregnancies resulted in a stillbirth in 2016. In Eastbourne, that figure rose to 8 out of 1,056.

Councillor Stephen Holt, Lead Scrutiny member, told the Committee: “It is a worrying statistic and it needs further explanation. We will be asking our colleagues at Eastbourne Borough Council Cabinet to press for action on this matter.”

He said: “Pressure should be put on the Government, with the support of Eastbourne & Willingdon MP Stephen Lloyd, to establish why the figure is twice the national average.” 

Committee Chair Councillor Penny di Cara expressed her concern that all the invitations sent to Clinical Commissioning Groups and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust were declined. 

She said: “This was the perfect opportunity to review the findings of our maternity report and offer comments and concerns. They declined to attend and participate, which is disappointing.

“The committee has decided to invite them to our next meeting to give them a further opportunity for meaningful discussion on the survey findings,” Councillor di Cara added.

The maternity review will now go to Cabinet and East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC).

Cllr di Cara said that she would be calling on HOSC to set up an independent review of single site hospitals and their effectiveness in East Sussex. 

Both councillors thanked all the mothers who had taken the trouble to participate in the maternity survey.

Councillor Holt said: “Members of the Scrutiny Committee would like to pass on our thanks to over 1,700 people who responded to the survey, as well as officers of Eastbourne Borough Council who worked so hard collating the information. It is incumbent on all interested parties, including HOSC and the Clinical Commissioning Group, to ensure that this data, and the issues raised, are put to good use.” 

Published on December 6, 2017