Hospital chiefs pressing ahead with surgery revamp plan

Hospital chiefs in South Tyneside are pressing ahead with plans to revamp how surgery is provided.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 12:36 pm
Updated Friday, 26th February 2021, 1:32 pm
Surgery shake-up plan at South Tyneside Hospital

The service revamp – which marks the resumption of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s ‘Path to Excellence’ project – would see South Tyneside District Hospital provide only planned operations, with all emergency operations and some planned procedures taking place at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Both hospitals would continue to provide outpatient services as well as diagnostic tests and scans.

Phase Two of ‘Path to Excellence’ was paused almost a year ago to allow frontline NHS staff to focus on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dr Shaz Wahid

Hospital bosses say that, as the second wave begins to subside, that work will now resume and will focus on the transformation of surgical services first on the agenda.

The Trust says surgical teams have been discussing the best way to arrange future surgical services since 2016 and ‘working ideas’ published in February 2019 outlined a clear ambition to separate emergency operations from planned operations – with benefits for both patients and staff.

It also says the impact of the pandemic – a backlog of patients waiting for surgery - has made the reasons for changing surgical services even more urgent

Surgical teams are now busy fine tuning the ‘working ideas’ into the plans before a formal public consultation is launched later this year.

Dr Shaz Wahid, executive medical director at the Trust, said: “Our staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and, as we emerge from this second wave, it is now vital that we restart the conversation about how we can improve hospital services for the future.

“We are also being realistic. The scale of service change we had originally set out for Phase Two is huge and our clinical teams do not have time to consider everything, at once, during a global pandemic.

"But we also cannot delay making some progress which is why we have decided to focus our efforts on surgery first.”

The Trust says that the local NHS is also very clear that pressures on emergency care and acute medicine have not gone away.

Any future planned changes to the Trust’s Emergency Departments and acute medical wards would be subject to the same rigorous process and a separate public consultation in due course.

Ambitions to improve planned care and outpatient services are now already fast becoming reality, with more services than ever before being delivered closer to people’s homes – and almost half of planned hospital appointments now happening virtually, either by telephone or video.

Dr Matthew Walmsley, chair of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Our local hospitals have coped admirably with the challenges of the pandemic but we must now reset our long-term thinking.

“By focussing on improving our surgical pathways we will be much better placed to deal with the ongoing need for strict infection prevention and control measures and minimise any further ongoing delays to planned services as a result of COVID-19.

“One of things we are making absolutely certain of is that any decisions we make around the future of surgical services do not negatively impact or influence how we deliver emergency care and medicine in the future.”

For more information on the updated Draft Case for Change, go to