Save South Tyneside Hospital group handed legal lifeline
Protesters fighting controversial changes to health services have been handed a legal lifeline.
The campaign against an overhaul of stroke, maternity and paediatric care in South Shields looked doomed after a High Court judge dismissed Save South Tyneside Hospital’s objections last December.
These services started to move to Sunderland Royal Hospital as the legal wrangle against the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside continued.
But the protesters have now won a Court of Appeal bid to challenge the outcome of the judicial review with a new hearing expected to take place in early November.
Health bosses insist the changes were about “doing what is right for our patients” and stressed the appeal is not about decisions made to change services but relates to how the judge reached his conclusions in the review.
Save South Tyneside Hospital’s chairman, Roger Nettleship, said: “We hope victory will lead to the restoration of services to South Tyneside and stop the additional worry that more services will be affected.”
Helen Smith, specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, which is representing the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group, said: “Despite the conclusion of the judicial review, we have always remained concerned by the processes used to make this decision regarding absolutely vital hospital services.
“This is a hugely important issue which affects healthcare access for a great number of people in the region and it is clear that any decision should be taken with the utmost care.
“It is welcome that the Court of Appeal has allowed us to challenge the original decision and we are determined to once again ensure our clients’ voices are heard on this matter.”
Save South Tyneside Hospital fears the extra travelling time in reaching Sunderland Royal Hospital will put patients at risk while creating further stress and inconvenience for their families.
However, Matt Brown, director at NHS South Tyneside CCG, speaking on behalf of both South Tyneside and Sunderland CCGs, said: “These changes have always been about doing what is right for our patients and protecting vulnerable hospital services which are now in a much safer and sustainable place since we implemented all the changes at the start of August.
“It’s important that people realise this this appeal is not about the decisions we made to change services, it’s about how the judge came to his conclusions during the judicial review.
“We will of course defend the appeal and, while this legal process carries on, our focus remains on providing excellent care for patients by our hardworking fantastic clinical teams.”