South Shields hospital campaigners lose legal battle over services move
Campaigners appear to have lost their lengthy battle against the departure of health services from their doorstep.
The Save South Tyneside Hospital group took its challenge against the overhaul of South Shields stroke, maternity and paediatric services to London’s Court of Appeal late last year.
Specialist lawyers on behalf of the group argued that the decision-making process over the transfer of services to Sunderland Royal Hospital was essentially pre-determined before a public consultation process in 2017.
But two judges at the Court of Appeal have now ruled that “there was genuine engagement with the public” during each stage of the process and that South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (CCGs) “primary concern was not to reduce costs but to secure improved services”.
A High Court judge blocked Save South Tyneside Hospital's initial opposition to the CCGs’ decision in 2018.
The group, which fears the extra travelling time in reaching Sunderland will put patients at risk while creating further stress and inconvenience for their families, then forced last November’s Court of Appeal hearing.
But the CCGs insist the changes are in the best interests of people across South Tyneside and Sunderland.
Maternity care now consists of a consultant-led unit in Sunderland and a midwife-led department on South Tyneside.
Paediatric services combine daytime emergency provision on South Tyneside with 24/7 provision in Sunderland.
Matt Brown, director at NHS South Tyneside CCG, speaking on behalf of both CCGs, said he was pleased by the latest verdict and added: “Throughout we have always said that these changes are about doing what is right for our patients and protecting vulnerable hospital services which are much safer and more sustainable since we implemented all the changes at the start of August 2019.
“This week we are celebrating 100 babies who’ve been born in South Tyneside since the summer, and we continue to see better care and outcomes for people who suffer a stroke as a direct consequence to the changes we have made.
“We can now finally conclude what has been a lengthy legal process and most importantly we’d like to thank our hardworking fantastic clinical teams without whom we would not have the excellent care they provide to their patients.”
Roger Nettleship, the chairman of the campaign group, which attracted around 30,000 signatures, said: “Of course everyone is very disappointed and we are still discussing the implications of the outcome with our solicitors.”
He added that Save South Tyneside Hospital would still fight to “protect other vital services in South Tyneside Hospital”.