NHS chiefs accused of treating South Tyneside like the ‘poor relation’ defend their approach after hospice closure

NHS chiefs accused of treating South Tyneside like the ‘poor relation’ have defended their approach to plans for the future of end of life care.
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The borough has been without a dedicated facility since January, following the closure of St Clare’s Hospice, which operated for more than 30 years from its former base in Jarrow.

But despite confirming their intention to open a new ‘hub’ for palliative services near South Tyneside District Hospital, health bosses have faced a backlash after admitting they considered locating it outside the borough.

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“You’re trying to sell us you’re doing us a favour by keeping it in South Tyneside at all,” Coun Alison Strike told representatives of the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Former St. Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.Former St. Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.
Former St. Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.

“We’re not the poor relations and we’re entitled to have that service in our borough.”

Coun Strike was speaking at a meeting of the Jarrow and Boldon Community Area Forum (CAF), which heard an update on the CCG’s plans for a new ‘spoke and hub’ model for palliative care in South Tyneside.

NHS bosses have said basing the planned ‘hub’ near South Tyneside District Hospital will give the new model the best chance of maintaining safe staffing levels.

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Ongoing ‘commercial discussions’ mean the CCG is yet to reveal any possible sites, although they have said they cannot ‘categorically’ rule out a return to St Clare’s former Primrose Hill base, but said it would be ‘unlikely’.

It prompted independent councillor John Robertson to ask why the site was left ‘sitting idle’ instead of being put back into use.

“I understand that’s the point that many people want to make, why not use that building?,” said Matt Brown, the CCG’s director of operations.

“The issues are practical, about how we make sure we have sufficient doctor cover so we have more people using that specialist unit.

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“I agree it seems paradoxical that there’s a building there we’re not using, but this is what we’ve come up with on the basis of discussions with residents and consultants and nurses.”

He added: “I cannot give a distance, but it needs to be close.”