Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell will ask the Health Secretary to call in plans by hospital bosses to change paediatric services at the DGH.

Caroline said she was responding to parents’ concerns over the proposals by East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust by requesting Victoria Atkins to examine them.

Critics of the plans have expressed the fear that treatment for some children could be reallocated to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

New powers of intervention for the Health Secretary on such issues will come into effect at the end of this month, 31st January.

In the meantime, Caroline is working in Eastbourne with families and alongside the health minister and Lewes MP Maria Caulfield ahead of the end of the month.

She also urged local people to continue to express their concerns to her, talk about their experiences and how they might be affected.

“There are strong local feelings about what is planned that I have listened to carefully and it is my intention to call in the hospital’s paediatric plans for the secretary of state’s consideration at the end of the month,” said Caroline.

“Parents need confidence this important service will remain effective and the hospital trust knows that.  I need to continue to hear parents’ voices as I prepare the ground for my submission and I am working closely with Maria Caulfield the minister for paediatrics.”

The trust had said its proposals were essentially an internal organisational service change. They did not represent an activity shift from the DGH to Conquest, the MP explained.

This was a position the Sussex NHS Commissioners agreed with, she added.

“The Health Overview Scrutiny Committee that also quizzed the hospital over the plans, challenged the timescale and deliverability of them but did not consider they met the threshold for referral at that point either. They have also committed to undertake a review,” Caroline said.  

“All this means that the referral to the Health Secretary could fall below the qualifying threshold for a ‘substantial variation’.  

“However, if that proves to be the case, it can only help to allay concerns. My action in calling it in is simply a belt and braces approach and the right approach too. We need to shine a light on what these plans mean for children and their parents.

“Reassurances have been made but there remains some deep anxiety that changes will result in a reduction in care.”

She added: “There is nothing I will not reach for to support children and their families in my constituency.

“It’s very personal too. As mum to a child with complex and special needs myself and having been a frequent flyer at the Scott Unit for many years, I feel for other parents.”

Caroline said she had continued to engage with the trust and it had responded in part to the pause recommended by the scrutiny committee.

There will now also be improvements within the emergency department to ensure children are seen sooner, with earlier paediatric input and reduced waiting times, trust has confirmed. 

“But I will continue to ask challenging questions, it’s my job,” the MP explained. “The NHS has always been a top campaign priority for me. It’s why I fought so hard for our place in the new hospital programme.”