Future of hospital services in South Tyneside and Sunderland put under spotlight

South Tyneside District Hospital is at the centre of the inquiry.
South Tyneside District Hospital is at the centre of the inquiry.
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NHS chiefs are planning a shake-up of services at South Tyneside District Hospital - including moving stroke treatment services to Sunderland.

Hospital bosses say they are proposing new ways some of its care can be improved in South Tyneside and Sunderland as a public consultation starts today.

Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.

The Path to Excellence public consultation will focus on areas of care delivered at the Harton Lane hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The review offers:

l Three options to improve stroke services, specifically hospital (acute) care and hospital-based rehabilitation services. The most controversial of these is likely to be the plan to move in hospital treatment to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

l Two options to improve maternity services (obstetrics), covering hospital- based birthing facilities, such as where women will give birth and special care baby units and women’s services (gynaecology) and inpatient surgery where an overnight stay is needed.

Dr Matthew Walmsley, a GP and chairman of NHS South Tyneside CCG.

Dr Matthew Walmsley, a GP and chairman of NHS South Tyneside CCG.

l Two options to improve children and young people’s (paediatrics, urgent and emergency) services

Read more: Protesters claim hospital plan for South Tyneside and Sunderland is ‘downgrade’ in service

A series of meetings have been drawn up to give people a chance to have their say and find out more.

Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, says it is an important time, with consultation offering the chance to make big improvements to hospital services and patient care.

Dr Ian Pattison.

Dr Ian Pattison.

Dr Wahid said: “We want to explain the current challenges we have around how these services are being delivered at the moment, and present options on the different ways our clinical teams think we could solve some of the problems we have.

“We need to be clear that we simply cannot continue as we are and this means some services will be delivered differently in the future.

“We will share the information we’ve used to come up with our proposals, for example, the best practice clinical evidence from the Royal Colleges, feedback from patient experiences and engagement, to name but a few.”

Dr Matthew Walmsley, a South Shields GP and chairman of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said he understood that people might be concerned when they hear of the need to make some changes to the way some services are provided, and urged people to find out more before forming an opinion.

He said: “We really hope people will take the opportunity to listen to the issues, think about how the options we present will help tackle them and tell us how these potential changes may affect them, or if they have ideas about how they can be improved.

“We don’t expect people to give their responses immediately so these first few weeks are about helping people understand the circumstances around these particular services we need to change.”

Read more: How maternity and women’s health services may change across South Tyneside

Dr Ian Pattison, who works as a GP in the area and chairman of NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning roup, said: “This is a very important opportunity for local people to hear directly from their own local doctors, nurses and therapists.

“This will allow everybody to understand the challenges we face due to the way in which these particular services are currently arranged and how we think we can improve them.”

Options for Children and Young People’s Healthcare - Urgent and Emergency Paediatrics - Services

Option one:

From South Tyneside, run a 12-hour paediatric emergency department from 8am to 8pm, including children’s short stay assessment beds.

From Sunderland, run a 24/7 paediatric emergency department, including children’s short-stay assessment beds.

Impact:

Eight out of ten patients from South Tyneside would continue to be treated locally

Approximately 3,000 patients from South Tyneside who need urgent and emergency care overnight would be treated at Sunderland Royal Hospital each year, with approximately 400 treated at Gateshead or Newcastle.

It would be possible to provide more specialised children’s outpatients clinics in South Tyneside.

Would cost approximately £370,000.

Option two:

From South Tyneside, run a nurse-led paediatric minor injury or illness service 8am to 8pm.

From Sunderland, run a 24/7 paediatric emergency department, including children’s short-stay assessment beds.

Impact:

Six out of ten patients from South Tyneside would continue to be treated locally

Around 6,600 patients from South Tyneside needing specialist treatment would be treated at Sunderland Royal Hospital each year with approximately 700 of those treated at Gateshead or Newcastle.

It would be possible to provide more specialised children’s outpatients clinics in South Tyneside.

Savings of £220,000 would be made.

Impact of both options:

Provide locally accessible seven-day urgent and emergency children’s services at South Tyneside and Sunderland during peak times if needed.

Offer specialised care at Sunderland Royal Hospital for more seriously ill children and young people with more senior doctors available.

Would improve the quality and experience of care, with fewer cancelled operations and clinics.

Would involve some additional travel for families of South Tyneside patients requiring more specialist care or urgent treatment during the night.

Sunderland and some County Durham patients would access urgent and emergency children’s care at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Read more: How stroke services may change across South Tyneside

A wide range of services are run across both areas, with more specialist care offered in Sunderland.

The review would see Sunderland continue to run its round-the-clock emergency department, but could lead to South Tyneside either running a 12-hour unit, from 8am to 8pm or a nurse-led minor injury service during the same hours. The review says the former would cost £370,000, while the latter would save £220,000.

GP practices, the NHS 111 service and self-referral, the paediatric outpatient clinics and routine and planned children’s surgery, including dental and day unit procedures, admissions to an inpatient unit at Sunderland, and further follow up care would remain.

The issues being considered are assessment, diagnosis and treatment within a paediatric emergency department and admission to a short stay assessment unit for observation and short-term treatment are the areas being reviewed.

South Tyneside’s children’s department treats 18,500 children each year, with 4,500 outpatients, with Sunderland’s handling 20,500 and 18,000 outpatients.

STDH has three short stay assessment beds and a further six special care cots, and Sunderland eight short stay beds and 16 special care cots.

The trust says it is meeting standards, but is facing issues with staffing levels, with a national shortage of qualified consultants and other senior medical staff, with both areas faced with spending “a lot of money on expensive short term locum doctors to fill staffing gaps at very short notice”.

The service says it runs a high quality service in both areas, but they are under used, with nine patients seen on average per night in South Tyneside, when medical staff from these departments could have more impact elsewhere in other departments.

It says: “If we want to give local children and young people the best quality care and secure the future of services across both areas we need to make some changes.”

Of the two options drafted up, both would see seven-day urgent and emergency children’s services at both hospitals during peak times.

Sunderland would offer more specialised care.

The trust says there would be improved quality and experiences for patients, with less cancelled operations and clinics.

But either choice would see additional travel for South Tyneside families for those needing urgent care or treatment during the night.