Health chiefs vote on future of maternity, stroke and paediatric services at South Tyneside and Sunderland hospitals

Health chiefs have voted on the future of services at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital

A crunch meeting took place today at which representatives from both NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Sunderland CCG in public to decide on how hospital services should be run at the two sites.

Related: Campaigners' anger as health chiefs vote to move hospital services from South Tyneside to Sunderland

The bodies said their decisions today would mean more people will survive a stroke, mothers can choose to have their baby in a new holistic birthing centre, and sick children will have access to the right paediatric doctors and nurses under reforms which would make "vulnerable local health services in South Tyneside and Sunderland safe for the future".

They decided:

Stroke services

Inside the meeting

Inside the meeting

• All hyperacute and acute stroke care to be combined and based at Sunderland Royal Hospital

• Patients from both South Tyneside and Sunderland will have their continuing hospital-based rehabilitation at Sunderland Royal Hospital before being discharged to their local community stroke teams who will provide any further rehabilitation and support locally

Paedeatric services

• Development of a nurse-led paediatric minor injury or illness service between 8am and 10 pm at South Tyneside District Hospital with a 24 hour, seven days a week paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal Hospital

• Provision of a seven-day, 12 hour (8am to 8pm) paediatric emergency department and children’s short stay assessment unit at South Tyneside District Hospital with 24 hour, seven days a week paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal Hospital

Maternity services

• Retaining a consultant-led maternity unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital and continuing to provide alongside midwifery-led care for low risk births

• Developing a free-standing midwifery-led unit at South Tyneside District Hospital for low risk births

• The provision of community midwifery care, including all community antenatal and postnatal care will remain unchanged

• Providing inpatient gynaecology surgery from Sunderland Royal Hospital while continuing to provide day-case operations and outpatients consultations at both South Tyneside District and Sunderland Royal Hospitals

• Single special care baby unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital

The decisions came after a consultation on the proposals. Since they were announced, the proposed changes have been met fierce opposition from campaigners.

A number of protests and rallies have taken place - led by the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign.

Councillors have also joined in the campaign to let their views be known.

Around 2,500 people took part in a consultation over the future of South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital - but many used the exercise to express major concerns.

The two NHS organisations made their decisions at a meeting held this afternoon at Hebburn Central in South Tyneside – which was also broadcast live on the internet.

They said they came to decisions based on their review and consideration of all the clinical evidence and feedback from a process of public consultation over the past year.

The governing body members, who are made up from senior GPs, doctors, nurses health professionals and lay members with expertise, have responsibility for making decisions about ensuring that local NHS services are safe and of a high quality for local people.

Dr Matthew Walmsley, chair of NHS South Tyneside CCG and a local GP said he recognised the high level of public interest in the final decisions.

He said: “As local doctors and nurses who are in charge of NHS service planning, we do our jobs because we believe local people deserve the best NHS care they can possibly get - whichever building it's based in.

“We’ve been very clear that the current situation cannot continue, and I know that these changes to these important local services are absolutely the right thing to do that will have a direct impact on people’s experiences of care and the clinical outcomes they will have. With the decisions we have made, we will have saved more people’s lives today than I have done on any other day in my medical career so far.”

He added: “So there is no element of doubt and to be categorically clear, retaining the status quo and not making any changes is simply not an option for these services – and as local health care leaders we must act in the best interests of patients as our first duty of care to our patients is do no harm.

“It is extremely likely that a failure to act now could compromise the safety of patients in our care and lead to unplanned closures of services across South Tyneside and Sunderland under crisis circumstances, as we have already seen with stoke and our special care baby unit in South Tyneside in order to keep patients safe.”

Dr Ian Pattison, clinical chair of NHS Sunderland CCG and a local GP, said there was a very positive future for hospital care across South Tyneside and Sunderland.

He said: “We recognise the fundamental importance and value to patients and their carers of having local hospitals that can provide a range of safe, high quality and sustainable services, we wish to see both hospitals develop over the coming years.

“However it is clear that the consequences of continued service duplication across South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital not least in terms of workforce availability, is presenting great challenges to the delivery of the safe, high quality services our patients rightly expect.

“We fully understand that local people are passionate about retaining very localised services but we are sure that everybody will understand that we are responsible for ensuring we get the best possible services across South Tyneside and Sunderland both now and into the future. This means that we are sometimes faced with difficult decisions and we must do the right thing in the best interests of everyone, this sometimes requires making very difficult decisions such as those taken today.

“We would like to thank everyone who took the time to get involved because it is the information they have provided to us that has helped make the best decisions we can in order to make the changes needed to ensure these vulnerable services become strong and vibrant services into the future providing the top quality care we know our NHS staff want to deliver for their patients.

“In particular we would like to thank partners such as Health Watch and new partners at Nexus as well as the bus and travel companies who have engaged so positively with the NHS to help come up with real and meaningful solutions around travel and transport.”

Dr Pattison added: “We hope local people will continue to engage positively in NHS reform over the coming months and years.

“As we celebrate our NHS’s 70th birthday this year – It is difficult and important decisions like those just made that will ensure our NHS continues to adapt and modernise to ensure it is there when we need it, providing free and safe care for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.”

Ken Bremner, chief Executive at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We welcome the very important decisions taken today by both CCGs which will not only help safeguard local NHS services for many future generations, but also improve the quality of care and clinical outcomes for people living in South Tyneside and Sunderland today.

“Two years ago we began discussions with staff and the public about the challenges facing local hospital services and since then we have seen, first-hand, the very real vulnerabilities within our workforce which resulted in temporary changes in stroke services and within our special care baby unit in South Tyneside.

"Today’s decisions are therefore very welcome news as we can now start looking to the future with certainty and begin building resilient models of care that will withstand the pressures facing us, as well as offering the very highest standards of care for our patients.

“Once again I want to be absolutely clear, as I have been throughout this process, that our hospitals in both South Tyneside and Sunderland will both continue to play vital roles in the future and I remain more confident than ever that by working together we can secure better care and outcomes from services that are safer and more sustainable for our patients, staff and local communities.”

Dr Shahid Wahid, Medical Director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and clinical lead across both Trusts for the Path to Excellence programme said:

“We very much welcome the decisions made by both CCGs today and now look forward to working with our staff to think about how we can begin to implement the recommended future service models.

“We recognise the strength of public feeling and passion that people have for their local NHS which has been expressed throughout the public consultation period and is something which everyone working in the NHS shares, including me.

"Providing the safest and highest possible quality of care to the people we are responsible for in South Tyneside and Sunderland will always be our guiding principle and as leaders, this means we must also continually evolve our services to meet the ever growing demands and pressures being placed on our hardworking frontline NHS teams.

“As we look to the future, we are fully committed to working together with our staff, patients and partners in the months ahead to truly transform these much valued local services into outstanding new models of care which we can all be proud of and which I have no doubt will help us attract the very highest calibre of staff to come and join us in the future.”