Campaigners are urging people to speak up and oppose draft plans which could change the future health care in South Tyneside.
The sustainability and transformation plan (STP) for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and North Durham is one of 44 plans being developed across the country.
However, critics – including South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck – say the plan, which is reviewing a number of services at South Tyneside District Hospital, including maternity, stroke and emergency care, is not transparent enough and the public should be concerned.
There are already fears for the borough’s services following an alliance with the City Hospitals Sunderland Foundation Trust – which created the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group – last year.
The Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) believes the hospital in Harton Lane, South Shields, could become a ‘cottage hospital’ if acute services are transferred to Wearside.
But trust bosses say any potential changes, which would be subject to a fill public consultation, would lead to better integration of care and resources.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “The STPs set out to change our services and medical provision immeasurably in South Tyneside.
“I urge residents to have their say on the proposals via the consultation process.
“This issue is vitally important, affecting the lives of everyone living here in South Shields and across South Tyneside.
“Everyone’s voice must be heard. We need services which work for our local community, based here in South Shields.
“The plans should not take those services away, leaving people with poor health care or services based outside of the area, all of which are very real possibilities. Please make sure you take part in the consultation.”
People can express their views on the draft plans until January 20 by visiting the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group’s website.
Roger Nettleship, chairman of the SSTHC, said: “Everyone in South Tyneside and Sunderland should be very concerned about these latest top down plans of the government to wreck our NHS as a viable health service fully available to all.
“Being able to access our acute and emergency services at our local hospitals is a right not a privilege. Everyone must get involved to block these STPs.”
Ken Bremner, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The aim of the plan is quite clear and provides the opportunity for all NHS health and local authority social care services to combine planning in a way which has not been done before, leading to integration of care and much better use of the staff and resources we have across the region.
“For South Tyneside and Sunderland, our local response to the wider STP are the clinical service reviews we are currently carrying out.
“Any potential proposals for changes to delivery of services will be subject to full and open public consultation.”
l The SSTHC group will next meet at the Alberta Social Club in Railway Street, Jarrow, tonight at 6.30pm.
l To express views on the STP and to read the full plans, visit www.southtynesideccg.nhs.uk