Emma Lewell-Buck MP: Health groups’ plans for South Tyneside should be put on hold

South Tyneside Hospital.
South Tyneside Hospital.

This year the NHS celebrates its 70th year. I want to wish the NHS a ‘Happy 70th Birthday!’ The NHS would be nothing without every single one of its hardworking staff that go the extra mile to care for others everyday across the UK. So it’s to them I want to express my gratitude.

The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement. In 1948, Labour created the NHS in face of opposition from the Conservative Party, who had voted against it 22 times. Since then we have always championed the NHS.

But is it a happy birthday? NHS services under this Tory Government have been pushed to the brink by the biggest financial squeeze in NHS history, as well as cuts to public health and social care.

NHS England has made clear that core treatment targets can’t be met because of the funding settlement imposed, as ever under the Tories it is the patients who will lose out.

According to projections, if they continue to neglect the NHS, pursuing their ideological drive for profit over care, there will be 4.9 million people on waiting lists in England by 2022; an increase of 700,000.

The total number of patients on the waiting list in April 2018 was 4.2 million, compared with 2.6 million in May 2010.

Last week I joined campaigners, party members, hospital staff (present and retired) and the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign at a fundraising event in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS. In my time as an MP my proudest moments have been joining our community, standing shoulder to shoulder with them fighting for the future of our hospital. I assure you as long as there is breath in my body I will continue to do so.

The local trust and clinical commission groups’ (CCG), current plans will see the downgrading of key services and the moving of acute stroke services and our special care baby unit to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

These decisions have been referred to the Secretary of State and for judicial review.

Worryingly, despite this, and a groundswell of public opposition, there are no protections in legislation to halt the trust’s or the CCG’s plans.

The last four referrals from other areas, saw almost a year pass between the referral to the Secretary of State being received and the report from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel being published.

This could mean plans being executed before a decision is made about whether they should happen.

We could end up in the scenario where these plans are pushed forward, services removed, services which then may have to be reinstated! Surely it would be prudent for the plans to be put on hold for now especially as the next phase of the consultation has already began on the future of: acute medicine and emergency care; emergency surgery and planned care; and planned surgery and outpatient care?

Labour has always and will always stand up for our NHS and protect the service for generations to come.

I promise to continue fighting locally and in Parliament to protect the NHS from further cuts and the downgrading of our hospital.