A health boss vowed that he is ‘adamant’ maternity services will return to South Tyneside at a heated public feedback session into a planned shake-up of hospital services.
NHS bosses opted to close the Special Care Baby Unit and suspend births in the maternity suite at South Tyneside District Hospital earlier this month.
I want to be clear that we are absolutely adamant that we expect to see those services restored as soon as it is safe to do soMatt Brown
They say the decision was taken due to a shortage of trained staff and on the advice of maternity experts.
Matt Brown, director of operations at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), appeared at a public session at the Clervaux Exchange, in Jarrow, on Monday.
The meeting saw the feedback on the ‘Path to Excellence’ proposals, which looks at how stroke services, maternity services, women’s healthcare and children’s services, including urgent and emergency paediatrics, are provided at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital, discussed.
Several midwives from South Tyneside addressed their concerns to Mr Brown at the meeting.
They argued that they had devised a ‘safe’ rota to continue births at the hospital, and expressed their concern that the unit may never reopen. However, he refuted those claims.
He said: “I want to be clear that we are absolutely adamant that we expect to see those services restored as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The Path to Excellence proposals include running inpatient hyperacute and acute stroke care from Sunderland, with hospital-based rehabilitation on a specialist stroke ward, while on South Tyneside, local community stroke teams would operate.
Other proposed changes included running a 24/7 paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal with either a 12-hour paediatric emergency department at South Tyneside or a nurse-led minor injury or illness service, both from 8am-8pm.
The proposals also include having a special care baby unit and consultant-led maternity unit for high risk births at Sunderland with South Tyneside either having a free-standing midwife-led unit for low risk births or solely offering antenatal and post-natal care.
About 2,500 people took part in a consultation over the future of the hospitals, with many using it as an opportunity to express their concerns.
The figures from the feedback were discussed at Monday’s public meeting by Andy Wright, research lead at Social Marketing Partners, and director Pippa Sargent.
They also explained some of the common concerns expressed by the public, ranging from a lack of consultation to travel concerns and ambulance response times.