The news that a High Court Judge has now approved a Judicial Review of the decisions taken earlier this year by South Tyneside CCG with Sunderland CCG to remove and downgrade some of our key South Tyneside Hospital services has strengthened the resolve of those of us fighting to retain them.
This approval indicates strongly that there is reason to believe that the decisions may not have been taken in the best interests of my constituents.
Additionally, I have received an official letter from the Minister of State for Health to say that the Government’s position is to generally support the decisions.
This is no surprise in the context of the cuts being made to the National Health Service by the Government, and the privatisation-by-stealth that is taking place before our eyes each day.
We can and must ensure that resources we do have locally are protected, for our families, our local economy and most importantly our health and wellbeing.
Let’s be clear – If you are finding it difficult to get an appointment with your GP, if you are waiting longer for surgery in pain and discomfort, if you are not able to give birth in your hospital of choice, if you are not able to visit your loved ones in hospital due to the cost of travel, if you are not allowed to take your very poorly child to your nearest A&E when they fall ill during the night – that is not ‘ a path to excellence’. That is a deterioration of local service.
Underfunding and undermining the NHS to breaking point is a cynical and contrived measure to justify outsourcing of services to private companies – for profit.
In his letter, the Minister does state that further work is required towards ensuring that ongoing and unanswered local concerns are addressed and that the “bigger picture” of plans for healthcare in our area are clarified by the end of October.
As I have repeatedly said, how can local people participate meaningfully in consultations if they are only being given a vision for the future in selective instalments?
I will also not accept that a proposed merger of our hospital trusts is inevitable without challenge. I will only accept what is in the best interests of the people of South Shields and the staff at our hospital.
And whilst my voice might be unwelcome in some quarters, again, to be clear – I am representing the views and interests of my constituents, as I was elected to do.
Those views are expressed to me first-hand, face to face. They are not speculation or conjecture.
Once again, I urge everyone in South Shields to make your views known right now – please contact your local representatives, take part in surveys, consultations and meetings, consider joining or supporting the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign.
We must do everything in our power to protect our hospital services, the jobs of those who work in the NHS and the health and wellbeing of our residents. It is our NHS and our hospital, far too precious to lose and far too precious not to fight for.