New legal challenge vow over South Shields and Sunderland hospital changes

Campaigners fighting controversial changes to hospital services have vowed to continue their legal battle.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 4:30 pm
South Tyneside Hospital campaigner Roger Nettleship has vowed to take the legal battle against service changes to the Court of Appeal.

The Save South Tyneside Hospital group says it will appeal against the decision to overhaul stroke, maternity and paediatric services in South Shields.

Stroke services have already moved to Sunderland with the changes to maternity and paediatric cover due to take place on August 5.

A High Court judge initially dismissed the Save South Tyneside Hospital’s legal challenge at a hearing last December,

But with Judge Mark Raeside’s 49-page full judgment just released last week, protesters say they are only now in a position to lodge an appeal.

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Save South Tyneside Hospital chairman Roger Nettleship also criticised the decision by the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside to press ahead with the maternity and paediatric changes.

But health bosses insist the changes are in the best interests of people in South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Maternity care will consist of a consultant-led unit in Sunderland and a midwife-led department on South Tyneside.

Paediatric services will combine daytime emergency provision on South Tyneside with 24/7 provision in Sunderland.

Save South Tyneside Hospital, which was the claimant in December’s case, fears the extra travelling time in reaching Sunderland Royal Hospital will put patients at risk while creating further stress and inconvenience for their families.

Mr Nettleship said: “We think it is unacceptable that the CCGs and NHS Trust have decided to implement their changes on August 5 next month when they were fully aware of the claimant’s intention to appeal the decision of the High Court.

“The papers will be lodged in the Court of Appeal imminently.”

Judge Raeside rejected accusations that the CCGs’ public consultation process had been flawed and concluded it was “both transparent and carried out with integrity”.

Speaking on behalf of the two CCGs, Matt Brown, director at NHS South Tyneside CCG, said: “The written judgement shows clearly that the judge supported our decision for phase one of the Path to Excellence programme following a widespread public consultation in 2017.

“While we understand people’s natural concerns about changes to health care services, these changes have always been about doing what is right for our patients and protecting hospital services, which are extremely vulnerable.

“The changes are in the best interests of people in South Tyneside and Sunderland and to delay making these changes any longer would be putting both our patients and staff at risk.

“Staff at both hospitals in South Tyneside and Sunderland have been working hard to prepare for the vital changes to maternity, gynaecology and emergency paediatric care from 5 August which are being made in the very best interests of patient care.”

Judge Raeside has apologised for the delay in publishing his report and said it was down to a “poor quality” original transcript of the High Court hearing which “I had to correct on several occasions”.