Changes to maternity services in East Sussex have been put on hold after the county council's health scrutiny committee referred the plans to the health secretary.

Primary care trusts in the county had agreed to concentrate consultant-led maternity services at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, leaving a midwife-led unit at Eastbourne District General Hospital. But the scrutiny committee said it was unconvinced that it would lead to an improved service.

Councillor Sylvia Tidy (Con), chair of the committee, said: "Unless the PCTs are prepared to reconsider their decision, we have no choice but to refer our concerns to the secretary of state and request an independent review."

A spokesperson for East Sussex Hospitals trust said it is now developing contingency plans to maintain services at both sites.

The centralisation plans were some of the first proposals to emerge from the local reconfiguration process across Surrey and Sussex. Other proposals, which could impact on acute services across West Sussex are expected to be decided soon.