Health bosses have promised patients from South Tyneside won’t be allowed to become ‘second class citizens’ following a proposed NHS merger.
Plans are currently in motion which could see South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trusts joined together by April.
The proposals have prompted concerns that transferring some services to Sunderland could cause care standards to fall.
But speaking at Monday afternoon’s annual general meeting (AGM) of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, chief executive Ken Bremner insisted this would not be the case.
He said: “It’s not an automatic assumption that all services will go to Sunderland, some will stay in South Tyneside.
“South Tyneside patients won’t be treated as second class citizens.
“Sunderland already treats patients from a wide geographical area, depending on specialists.
“They’re not second class citizens, so there’s no reason to worry – you’re all patients at the end of the day.”
Mr Bremner, who has had the top job at South Tyneside since 2016 and is also chief executive at City Hospitals Trust Sunderland, was responding to a question from Dr Shobha Srivastava, a former hospital consultant and board member at Healthwatch South Tyneside.
The meeting also heard a presentation from Dr Shalabh Srivastava, who became South Tyneside District Hospital’s first ever kidney consultant last year, on the positive impact improved working across sites in Sunderland and South Tyneside was already having.
It is hoped the proposed merger between the two trusts could save up to £8m by 2022/23.
If approved, the new trust would be responsible for about 675,000 patients in Sunderland, South Tyneside and parts of North Durham and employ more than 8,500 workers.
The scheme is different to the Path to Excellence proposals to reform services in Sunderland and South Tyneside, which are currently subject to a government review, judicial review and public consultation.
As the merger relates to organisational structure and not services, it is not subject to a full public consultation, but an engagement process will run until Friday, September 28, during which the public can submit comments.
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service