Charities and community groups are being urged to help vulnerable patients have their say on planned changes to health services in South Tyneside and Sunderland.
A major public consultation entitled ‘The Path to Excellence’ was launched last month and will run until Sunday ,October 15.
The consultation focuses on some areas of hospital care which are delivered at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital, including:
· Stroke care services
· Maternity (obstetrics) and women’s healthcare services (inpatient gynaecology)
· Urgent and emergency paediatric services
The review offers:
*Three options to improve stroke services, specifically hospital (acute) care and hospital-based rehabilitation services. The most controversial of these is likely to be the plan to move in hospital treatment to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
*Two options to improve maternity services (obstetrics), covering hospital- based birthing facilities, such as where women will give birth and special care baby units and women’s services (gynaecology) and inpatient surgery where an overnight stay is needed.
*Two options to improve children and young people’s (paediatrics, urgent and emergency) services.
Now NHS chiefs are appealing would like to charities and other third sector groups who work with people who might struggle to take part in the consultation for help.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, chairman of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said it was really important to hear from all parts of local communities: "The options being presented are ideas that could help solve some of the problems these services are facing and the public consultation period is the opportunity to share these proposals, for people to feedback their views, and to give alternative suggestions if they feel there are other valuable ideas to consider," he said.
Dr Ian Pattison, chairman of of NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, added: "We’ve already had a number of very helpful comments and suggestions on how these proposals might be improved upon and we would very much welcome further involvement with third sector organisations who work with people who might have a particular interest in these proposals, but might not easily be able to attend a public event or take part in a survey.
A free package of support is on offer for those groups wishing to take part an includes free training on running focus groups, focus group toolkit and guides and a small payment in return for a report from the group for the consultation activity.
The Path to Excellence programme is keen to hear from organisations with an interest in the protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010 that includes:
· gender reassignment
· religion or belief
· sexual orientation
· marriage and civil partnership
· pregnancy and maternity.
Alan Patchett, chairman of Health Watch Sunderland said: "It’s important the NHS hears from groups of people who might be more impacted than others by these proposals so we would wish to see many diverse groups coming forward to take part in this activity."
Sue Taylor, chairman of Health Watch South Tyneside said: "There is a package of support available which will help make it as easy as possible for organisations to take part. It’s also a good way that community and voluntary sector groups can ensure the people they work closely with have their voices heard."
Interested groups can find out more on the Path to Excellence website and will need to return an expression of interest form to access the support package – www.pathtoexcellence.org.uk.