Health closures ‘a done deal’ - council leader

A DONE DEAL ... Coun 
Iain Malcolm believes the decision over mental health services such as the Bede Wing, inset, has already been made.

A DONE DEAL ... Coun Iain Malcolm believes the decision over mental health services such as the Bede Wing, inset, has already been made.

HEALTH chiefs have already decided to move specialist adult mental health services out of South Tyneside, the Labour leader of the borough council believes.

A consultation has been launched looking at the future of the Bede Wing, based in the grounds of South Tyneside District Hospital.

Also being discussed is the long-term viability of ward 18 at the hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, where elderly patients with psychiatric problems are treated and The Leas rehabilitation ward, run by Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust (NTW).

The changes are part of a drive to provide more and better services in the community for adults with mental health needs.

The plan is for services to be transferred to the new Hopewood Park mental health hospital, being built in Ryhope, Sunderland, which is replacing the city’s old Cherry Knowle Hospital.

The consultation is being organised by the NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the new NHS organisation responsible for the planning and buying in of healthcare and health services in the borough.

Next week, members of the council’s people select committee will meet to discuss the plans.

The committee will be informed there will be no compulsory staff redundancies as a result of the proposed re-location.

As part of his submission, borough council leader Iain Malcolm expressed his view that the exercise was not a “consultation” as he believes a decision has been made to close the facilities at the district hospital.

But it was a view not echoed by a spokesman for the CCG, who said “no firm decisions” had yet been made.

A report to the committee says: “He expressed his strongly held view that the exercise was not a ‘consultation’ as the council understood the word, as he believed that the decision had been made to close the facilities at South Tyneside General and re-provide them at Hopewood Park.

“The leader accepted that NTW were working within a time of austerity and needed to identify new ways of working. He was convinced that the service would be better, with a greater emphasis placed on community services and early detection.

“While he felt it was encouraging that the amount of in-patient admissions would reduce, there would still be some instances of individuals within the borough being admitted to the new facility in Ryhope.

“It was important that measures were in place to ensure for family members to be able to visit.”

The report adds: “No compulsory redundancies are anticipated resulting from the proposed changes. Staff consultation is taking place.

“Members are unhappy that the location of Hopewood Park is at the southern end of Sunderland and difficult to access.

“This will provide significant challenges for users, carers and staff. If the travel issues can be overcome and the required community services 
can be put in place, it could mean a better service for South Tyneside residents.”

Dr James Gordon, NHS South Tyneside CCG’s clinical director for mental health, said: “NHS organisations have a duty to involve and consult whenever they propose a change to services, and these are slightly different to how local authorities consult and I recognise that these different terminologies may cause confusion. As NHS bodies are not elected, we must ensure that we are having robust, open discussions with the public on proposed service changes.

“Before we make any changes we need to hold a period of formal public consultation, and explore a number of questions with local people, especially with the people who use these services, their families and carers, local organisations and with other healthcare providers, including NHS trusts.

“It is important to note that no firm decisions have yet been made by the CCG or by NTW to implement any of the proposals. Our governing body will consider making such decisions following the end of the consultation period.”

The people select committee is to meet at South Shields Town Hall from 10pm on Tuesday.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul


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