The future of key hospital services in South Tyneside is unclear after a major consultation was announced today.
A 14-and-a-half week public consultation is to be launched next month, when health chiefs say they will reveal proposals for how they plan to deliver care at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital.
That will focus mainly on:
* Stroke services, specifically acute care and hospital-based rehabilitation services
* Maternity services (obstetrics), which covers hospital-based birthing facilities and special care baby units
* Women’s services (gynaecology), covering inpatient surgery where you would need an overnight hospital stay
* Children and young people’s (paediatrics, urgent and emergency) services
The consultation begins on Wednesday, July 5 - which is when NHS chiefs say they will publish their proposals for the first time.
Members of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) have already expressed fears for the borough’s services following an alliance with the City Hospitals Sunderland Foundation Trust – which created the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group – last year.
The SSTHC believes the hospital in Harton Lane, South Shields, could become a ‘cottage hospital’ if acute services are transferred to Wearside.
The reviews are part of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) by the Government to find £900million in annual cuts to the social and health care budgets of hospitals in Northumbria, Tyne & Wear and North Durham, by 2021.
The public consultation will run until Sunday, October 15.
Final decisions will be made by South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and its Sunderland counterpart later in the year.
To mark its start, a launch event will be held from 1-3pm on July 5 at Jarrow Community Centre, in Cambrian Street.
Other public consultation events include:
* Wednesday, July 12, a consultation discussion event from 6-8pm at the Customs House, Mill Dam, South Shields.
* Saturday, July 15, a focused event on maternity, women’s and children’s services from 10am-12pm at The Clervaux Exchange, Clervaux Place, Jarrow.
* Wednesday, July 19, a focussed event on stroke services from 6-8pm at Living Waters Church, St Jude’s Terrace, Laygate, South Shields.
* Wednesday, September 13, a consultation discussion event from 1-3pm at the Customs House.
Those interested in attending the events are asked to visit www.pathtoexcellence.org.uk for registration details.
Health chiefs say they want South Tynesiders to have their say on the future of hospital services in the borough.
Although NHS bosses have yet to reveal what their exact proposals are, and will not until the public consultation begins on July 5, they insist it is important people express their opinions.
Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We want to explain the current challenges we have around how these services are being delivered at the moment, and present some proposals on the different ways our clinical teams think some services could be delivered 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 Walmsey, a local GP and Chair of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), added: "We want people to understand that we have clinical issues driving these proposals and any future changes to the way services are organised would only be made in order to improve the quality and safety of those services for the future.
"Any changes need to make the best use of our most important resource - our clinical staff - so we can meet the healthcare needs of our patients both now and in the future."
As well as public meetings, there will also be an opportunity for people to take part in a paper and online survey.