Demand for answers over future of South Tyneside's A&E department

A union has called for the leader of South Tyneside Council to make known his views on South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust forging an alliance with Sunderland Health Trust.
South Tyneside District Hospital.South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.

Plans have been unveiled for the integration of health services between the two hospitals, and concerns have been raised over whether South Tyneside District Hospital would lose its accident and emergency department.

Chief Executive Steve Williams has said it was the “intention” to maintain an accident and emergency department at South Tyneside.

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Unison’s South Tyneside Public Services Alliance wants Coun Iain Malcolm to come out and make known his views on the plans.

Coun Malcolm is a non-executive director of South Tyneside Foundation Trust board and also chairman of the health and wellbeing board.

Gemma Taylor, co-ordinator of South Tyneside PSA, said there has been “no response” to an email sent on behalf of the group asking his views.

She said: “We have concerns about the alliance. What services are going to be affected? What acute services are there going to be, and if these are reduced, would there still be a need for accident and emergency?

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“Has there been any involvement with the council over this? If so, where is the scrutiny?”

Both trusts have said they see the importance of a hospital in each of their areas which will provide a range of emergency and planned services, but say there is an “urgent need to rebalance services” as it is no longer safe or sustainable to duplicate some at each location.

The new South of Tyne Healthcare Group will embark on an ambitious programme of reconfiguring services, which will see Sunderland’s trust build on specialist services, increasing its focus on emergency surgical and complex planned acute services.

South Tyneside, where the trust has been moving away from complex acute services, will lead on out-of-hospital rehabilitation, diagnostic and screening services, as well as community services in partnership with both councils and primary care teams.

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A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “The council, as a member of the South Tyneside Health and Wellbeing Board, will be engaged in discussions and the chairman will respond as further details emerge.”

“Both trusts have already stated that any significant proposed change to clinical services would be subject to wide public consultation.”