Councillors agree to ask Health Secretary to intervene in South Tyneside hospital shake-up plans

Councillors have rubber stamped a decision to call on the Secretary of State for Health to rule on changes to three key hospital services in South Tyneside.
South Tyneside District Hospital.South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.

Members of the South Tyneside Council’s overview and scrutiny committee yesterday agreed that planned changes over future maternity, stroke and children’s accident and emergency services should be referred to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The call comes after South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups decided, last month, to make changes in the way the three services will be delivered.

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Coun John McCabe said that if the Secretary of State for Health comes back with recommendations before any of the plans go ahead, he wants guarantees they will happen.

South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group says any delay in the process would “not be good for staff or patients”.

Coun McCabe, a supporter of the Save the hospital campaign said: “This is the right decision. The council is behind the Save the South Tyneside Hospital Campaign and it has been backed to the hilt by a number of us.”

He added: “When Palmer’s Walk-in centre was to be closed, that decision was reviewed and six recommendations were made.

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“Three were fulfilled but three still remain to be properly addressed - transport, car parking and GP access in Hebburn and Jarrow. The GP access is worse.”

Coun McCabe was backed by a number of councillors, concerned over the future of the hospital services in South Tyneside.

Coun Bill Brady agreed transport was an issue for people travelling to Sunderland to access hospital services.

He said: “To get to the hospital I had to get a bus from Whiteleas to South Shields, a bus to Sunderland interchange then a bus to the hospital.

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“I was then told I could get a bus direct from near Boldon Asda - which I did and it took an hour and 10 minutes.

“I didn’t realise Sunderland had so much countryside - I saw that much of it,”

Matt Brown, director of operations at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “These steps are needed to protect local services that are vulnerable because of a severe shortage of skilled medical staff.

“We are disappointed in this decision because of the very real risk to patient safety if the changes are delayed.

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“An unnecessary delay will increase the risk that the NHS has to make changes in a crisis situation in order to keep patients safe. This would not be good for staff or patients.

“Our consultation process has been open and transparent throughout, with decisions based on evidence and a clear commitment to providing the safest and highest quality of care.”