Protesters joined together to march against the alliance between two hospital trusts.
People against the newly-formed alliance between City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust marched seven-and-a-half miles to demonstrate the distance patients in South Tyneside could have to travel for emergency care.
Protestors are worried that the merger could see services streamlined, resulting in the closure of the A&E department in South Shields.
They walked from South Tyneside District Hospital to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
The walk was organised by members of the Green Party in South Tyneside today. Party activist Shirley Ford said: “People say we’re jumping the gun and that there’s nothing to worry about yet, but we are worried. In many acute cases, such as a stroke, it’s proven that the quicker people get treatment the more likely they are to recover and avoid paralysis, so if we lose our A&E in South Shields, there could be huge repercussions. It could cost lives.
“It’s not just about the impact on our borough though, but also on Sunderland. The people in Sunderland are concerned about increasing pressures on the A&E department.”
Both trusts say they understand the importance of a hospital in each area, but argue there is an “urgent need to rebalance services”.
The South of Tyne Healthcare Group will create a programme of reconfiguring services. Sunderland’s trust would build on specialist services, while South Tyneside would lead on out-of-hospital rehabilitation and community services.