Children's A&E changes at South Tyneside District Hospital: Families reminded of controversial changes as one-week countdown begins
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Bosses at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust announced earlier in July how children’s A&E services at South Tyneside District Hospital will change to become a new nurse-led urgent care unit.
The changes – which will mean children with life-threatening cases must be treated in Sunderland – come into force on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, and leaders at the Trust are keen to make sure families and carers are aware.
The switch is the latest move in the controversial shakeup known as Path to Excellence, which NHS chiefs say is improving services – but campaigners say amounts to a downgrading of health services in South Tyneside.
Dr Lorna Gillespie, clinical director and consultant at the Trust, said: “Next week our children’s A&E service in South Tyneside will be moving to a nurse-led urgent care centre and it is important that the local people of South Tyneside are aware of these important changes.
“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.
“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.”
She added: “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.”
A rally against the changes to children’s A&E is taking place outside the Harton Lane entrance to South Tyneside District Hospital on Friday, July 30, at 12pm.
After the latest changes were revealed, Roger Nettleship, chairman of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, said he thought people ‘will be very angry at this loss of access one of the most vital and important parts our A&E’.
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.”
The ‘South Tyneside Urgent Care for Children’ be open from 8am until 10pm every day, based in the same location at South Tyneside District Hospital.
Chiefs say the service will continue to see and treat the vast majority of children who attend hospital with urgent, but not life threatening, problems.
Staffed by nurse practitioners who the Trust say have trained and worked in emergency care over many years, the new nurse-led urgent care service in South Tyneside will treat children from birth, up to the age of 16, for a range of injuries and illnesses including:
:: Broken bones
:: Children with mild breathing problems
:: Common childhood infections in the chest, ears or throat
:: Children who are being sick or have diarrhoea
:: Cuts and open wounds that need closing
:: Minor burns
:: Minor bumps or head injuries
:: Sprained ankles or strained muscles.
The Trust said the children’s nursing team do many of the things traditionally done by doctors, including organising diagnostic tests, scans or x-rays, interpreting the results and beginning treatment.
As part of the change, children with any major, life threatening problems will be cared for at Sunderland Royal Hospital, as they already are overnight after a previous change.
The Trust said any children who arrive in South Tyneside and need more specialist care, will be safely transferred.
Leaders said a widespread public awareness and information campaign is now underway, including targeted information for parents or carers of young children across the borough.
The Trust said it is working closely with all health and care partners, including local GPs and the North East Ambulance Services to ensure a smooth transition to the new nurse-led urgent care service.
To find out more about the changes visit www.stsft.nhs.uk.