South Tyneside and Sunderland hospital campaigners take fight to save services to Parliament - with 44,000 backers behind them
The fight to safeguard hospital services in South Tyneside is going to Parliament – with 44,000 backers.
Campaigners have been battling health chiefs for years over changes under the ‘Path to Excellence’ following the merger of South Tyneside and Sunderland’s NHS hospital trusts.
Chiefs at the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust say the ovehaul will “secure the future of local NHS services and to identify new and innovative ways of delivering high quality, joined-up, sustainable care that will benefit the population both now and in the future”, and have previously highlighted successes.
But many are angry at what they say amounts to a downgrading of hospital services in South Shields.
Now a deputation of 17 people are going to Parliament on June 9 to hand in a petition with 44,000 signatures.
Roger Nettleship, chairman of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, said “The petition was launched in 2016 over the concerns to downgrade our hospital through what was claimed as a ‘path to excellence’ which has already led to the loss of full maternity services, 24 hour Children's A&E and hospital stroke rehabilitation services.
"These closures of our vital services are going to continue in this Government-driven programme of cuts and privatisation of our health services.
"As the petition shows, these closures have not been agreed by the people of South Tyneside, or Sunderland, and they are not in our name.
"Health care is a right in a modern society and it is the people of South Tyneside who should decide on the services that our hospital provides.”
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, for South Shields, and Kate Osborne MP, for Jarrow, will welcome the delegation at Westminster and receive the petition ‘with wholehearted support’.
Ms Lewell-Buck said: “Like many of my constituents and the wider community, I have supported and fought alongside the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign to oppose these cuts and the further downgrading of my local hospital.
"The last year has shown that our NHS is needed more than ever however, in the hands of the Tories it’s very future is uncertain.
"The Government must step in and show they are serious about protecting the NHS and listen to my constituents and stop more cuts to South Tyneside Hospital and return the services we have already lost.”
Ms Osborne added: “Since 2010, our NHS services have been starved of funds by the biggest financial squeeze in NHS history by this Conservative Government. This simply cannot be allowed to continue.
“In South Tyneside, the downgrading of our local hospital services is well underway following the loss of services such as stroke, consultant-led maternity, 24/7 paediatrics and our Special Care Baby Unit.”
Dr Shahid Wahid, executive medical director and consultant acute physician at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said there had been much ‘disappointing’ misinformation shared about hospital services.
and stressed there are no plans to move all acute services away from South Tyneside District Hospital.
"This is about improving surgical services, making sure more people have access to timely operations and reducing the significant backlog of patients now waiting for treatment. It is not about downgrading anything, it is about making services better,” he said.
“The changes already made to improve stroke, maternity and paediatric services have had fantastic feedback from patients.
"Our hospital in South Tyneside is going from strength to strength, is now rated good by the Care Quality Commission and will see continued investment for many years ahead.
“We have already shared our intention to improve surgical services and look forward to sharing more detailed plans later this year.”