South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed children’s A&E services at South Tyneside District Hospital will switch to a new nurse-led urgent care service in August.
Bosses say the new ‘South Tyneside Urgent Care for Children’ will treat the ‘vast majority’ of children who attend hospital with urgent, non-life threatening problems, and will continue operate from 8am to 10pm every day in the same location.
Children with any major, life-threatening problems will be cared for at Sunderland Royal Hospital, as they already are overnight.
It is the latest controversial move under the Path to Excellence shake-up following the merging of Sunderland and South Tyneside’s hospital trusts, which has also seen stroke services moved to Wearside, and a midwife-led maternity unit set up in South Tyneside.
Campaigners are angry at what they say is a ‘downgrading’ of South Tyneside’s hospital services, with a delegation from the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSHC) presenting a petition bearing 44,000 signatures against the moves to Parliament earlier in June.
The change to children’s A&E will come into force on August 4, 2021 – almost two years to the day since overnight A&E for children moved to Sunderland.
The trust said ‘highly experienced nurse practitioners who have trained and worked in emergency care over many years’ will treat children from birth, up to the age of 16, for a range of injuries and illnesses, including broken bones, bumps, burns, sprains, strains, minor burns, common infections, asthma and cuts or wounds.
Hospital chiefs say any children who arrive in South Tyneside and need more specialist care will be ‘safely transferred’.
Dr Lorna Gillespie, clinical director and consultant paediatrician at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an important change to our children’s A&E service in South Tyneside and we want to make sure people are aware that we will be moving to a nurse-led urgent care service.
“The paediatric nursing team at South Tyneside District Hospital really are experts in their field and already look after the vast majority of children who attend hospital with an urgent problem.”
She added: "Although we will continue to see and treat the vast majority of children locally in South Tyneside, it is important that people understand the new service and where to go if they are worried about their child.
“As always, we would remind people to call NHS 111 if they need urgent medical advice about their child and, of course, dial 999 in a life threatening emergency.
“Our team has been fantastic in helping us prepare for this change and will, without doubt, continue to provide a vital service for children in South Tyneside for many years to come.”
Roger Nettleship, chairman of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, however, thinks people in people of South Tyneside ‘will be very angry at this loss of access one of the most vital and important parts our A&E’, citing a 2017 document he said showed the move would make savings of around £200,000.
"Shame on Government and those that are driving these cut backs to vital services to save paltry amounts,” he said.
"It will be less safe access for the people of South Tyneside and a more over crowded service for the people of Sunderland.
"It is not a new service but will downgrade our Children's A&E from a specialist led unit to a minor injury and illnesses unit with less staff and without 24 hour assessment beds.”
Mr Nettleship said the campaigners were holding a 'hoot for our children's A&E' outside the hospital each Friday lunch time, with a rally against the children’s A&E changes planned after July 19.