Health bosses pushing ahead with hospital service reforms

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Health bosses are pressing ahead with plans to overhaul care services in South Tyneside and Sunderland – even though concerns over the first stage of the scheme saw it referred to the government.

Earlier this year, the South Tyneside and Sunderland Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) cited the safety of sick children and transport for pregnant women among its concerns in a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt attacking the proposals.

Dr Shaz Wahid

Dr Shaz Wahid

But today (Thursday, June 21), the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside returned to the panel at Sunderland Civic Centre to press the case for Phase Two of its Path to Excellence plans.

Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This phase is not dependent on pediatrics or maternity or stroke care [which are the subject of Phase One], being as it is at the moment.”

He added: “No change is not an option, we need to address services for patient safety.

“This is why Phase One was as it was, we can’t stand still and wait five years for changes to me made or something will fall over.”

The second phase is due to consider emergency and planned care, including surgery and outpatient services, such as scans and blood tests.

But, as with the first phase, members of the JHOSC raised concerns about how patients would be able to access care.

And the prospect was also raised of patients in South Tyneside choosing to go to Newcastle instead due to ease of transport.

South Tyneside councillor Margaret Peacock said: “Sometime [where you go for healthcare] is not a choice.

“If you come from Hebburn, sometimes you’re going to choose Gateshead or Newcastle because it’s nigh on impossible to get to Sunderland.”

Dr Wahid said he hoped the reforms would help ‘bring people back’ to their local services.

And he added greater patients numbers in Sunderland and South Tyneside could give extra impetus to improving transport links.

Pre-consultation on Phase Two began in December last year and is due to continue until early 2019.

Public consultation is expected to start in Summer next year.

What is the Path to Excellence:

A five-year plan by the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside to improve hospital services.

The first phase focused on changes to children’s, maternity and stroke care.

However, concerns over the safety of sick children needing urgent out of hours care, transport for pregnant women and the ability of Sunderland Royal Hospital to cope with an increase in patients led a joint committee of councillors for South Tyneside and Sunderland to ask the government to step in.

The second phase is due to consider emergency and planned care, including surgery and outpatient services, such as scans and blood tests.

In April this year, councillors voted to refer the Phase One plans to the Department of Health and Social Care

Concerns included the safety of sick children needing urgent out of hours care, transport for pregnant women and the ability of Sunderland Royal Hospital to cope with an increase in patients.

The health secretary has asked the government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel to investigate the committee’s concerns about the first phase of the Path to Excellence and will respond ’respond in due course’.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service