Fears over future of South Tyneside District Hospital after births ‘temporarily paused’

Births at South Tyneside District Hospital have been 'paused' because of staff shortages, according to health chiefs.
Births at South Tyneside District Hospital have been 'paused' because of staff shortages, according to health chiefs.

Calls to safeguard the future of South Tyneside District Hospital have grown after staff shortages led to a ‘temporary’ halt to the delivery of babies there.

The move came into effect at 8am yesterday morning, with the hospital’s Special Care Baby United having already been temporarily closed.

It’s absolutely ridiculous that women who are due to give birth soon haven’t been contacted privately to discuss our options

Christina Graham

The decision – made by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust – was heavily criticised by South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck over the weekend. Many more have added their criticism.

Roger Nettleship, Chair of Save outh Tyneside Hospital Campaign group, said: “This has really shocked and angered everyone. Here is a Sunderland-based executive team that has come in with all its pretensions of a ‘path to excellence’, yet there is nothing excellent in the way they are managing the erosion of our hospital services in South Tyneside.

“There is nothing ‘safe and sustainable’ about what they are doing to one of the best performing maternity services in the country and what about the massive stress they are creating for the 165 mums-to-be over the next few weeks.

“This is crisis management and crisis-driven wrecking of our acute hospitals.

“We have a right to these health services and they should be guaranteed.

“We understand high sickness levels were the specific cause of the closure of SCBU. But yet again, if the Trust leaders had involved and listened to the nursing and midwifery clinical staff at our hospital both the Special Care Baby Unit and our maternity services would not have closed.

“We know that if they listen to and involve the staff now they can re-open the service with immediate effect.

“This is the wonderful commitment that our clinicians, nursing and midwifery have and are the real safety and sustainability of our health services.”

Writing on the Gazette’s Facebook page, Christina Graham said: “I was going to have my baby at South Tyneside hospital as that’s where I’ve had all of my antenatal appointments and where I feel safe to have my baby. The midwives have been amazing! It’s absolutely ridiculous that women who are due to give birth soon haven’t been contacted privately to discuss our options.”

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust say that all 165 women who were booked in to have their babies delivered at the unit until January 15 were being contacted to make alternative arrangements.

Dr Shahid Wahid, medical director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The very clear and resounding advice that we have now had from maternity and neonatal experts around the region is that we need to pause all births so that we can ensure further robust processes are developed for low risk deliveries at South Tyneside Hospital during the suspension of SCBU services.”