Many readers will know that since March of this year I have been consistent in raising concerns regarding the downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital both in and outside of Parliament.
This Saturday, I along with trade unions, campaigners and members of the public will be joining the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, marching from Haven Point at 11.30am to the market for 12.30pm where I, with others will be speaking about the threat to our hospital.
The Government are placing hospitals right across the country under pressure forcing mergers and instructing them behind closed doors to make cuts. Yet they have no mandate at all for such a radical reconfiguration of our NHS.
I am fully aware there is a funding crisis and there are staffing shortages but the funding crisis, which is nothing new in the NHS, the staff shortages and creeping privatisation will not be solved by simply moving one underfunded and understaffed service from one hospital to merge it with another underfunded and understaffed service in another hospital.
All this will do is increase patient numbers to breaking point. It is this breaking point that the Tories want to reach because when the NHS finally breaks all that will be left is the private sector leaving them free to achieve their ideological goal of full NHS privatisation.
Already in South Tyneside we have lost our stroke unit, without any public consultation at all, to Sunderland Royal Hospital. How are we supposed to believe assurances that consultation will take place on any future changes when it hasn’t happened on this occasion? The precedent has been set and I suspect attempts will be made to avoid or limit any future consultation.
Some people may hold the cynical view that public campaigns, petitions, marches, rallies, letters to government don’t achieve anything but I was part of the successful Labour led campaigns to stop the cutting of tax credits, to stop all schools becoming academies, to stop the reversal of the fox hunting ban, to name but a few. It can and does work! The fact is, Theresa May has already met with a number of NHS leaders to ask them to stem the tide of public opposition to these plans, already she is showing unease, we must keep the pressure up.
The Sustainability and Transformation Plans that will pave the way for these cuts ultimately need to be signed off by local councils, many Labour councils right across the country are making it clear they will not be complicit in this latest Tory led attack on our NHS and I am sure our Councillors will do the same.
Please be assured as your MP I will never sit back and let our hospital be dismantled without a fight. Like many of you, I was born there, have been treated there and sadly seen relatives pass away there. This is our hospital. We must look after it. Once the NHS is gone, it is gone forever. Please join me this weekend and fight for it.