Stephen Hepburn MP: The Tories would steal Christmas if they could get away with it

South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.

Sick Tories are destroying our beloved National Health Service.

Last week hospital chiefs announced the temporary closure of our Special Care Baby Unit in South Tyneside, and just days later they also revealed “temporarily” closing all maternity services at South Tyneside District Hospital for the 165 mothers due to give birth there this month until January 14.

If the National Health Service was properly funded, there would be no staff shortages.

Instead we’re seeing the dangerous impact of the Conservatives slashing the living standards year after year of workers.

So I demand the Tory Government pays nurses, doctors and other staff what they’re worth. If they did pay them what they’re worth they’d be hammering on the hospital’s doors instead of quitting.

It would appear the “suspension” of special care for new-born babies and the closure of our maternity services is a backdoor excuse to close the services permanently.

We want the six cots reopened next month, which is possible if they start recruiting for maternity staff, and the threat to axe the maternity services must be lifted immediately to prevent the loss forever of more of our vital hospital services in South Tyneside.

We have been down this road before with the shutting of Jarrow’s popular NHS Walk-In health centre at the Palmer Community Hospital.

If anything it has taught us to be wary of these public consultations which are ‘shamsultations’ when the voices of patients are ignored.

As the inspiring protesters sang when they gathered outside our district hospital for an emergency demo when the shock loss of the baby care was slipped out:

“It’s a long way to Sunderland Hospital,

“It’s a long way to go,

“It’s a long way to Sunderland Hospital,

“If sick babies have to go.”

An emergency protest against the closures of our maternity services has been arranged for tomorrow at noon, outside the main entrance to South Tyneside District Hospital.

Jeremy Hunt might not care much when seriously ill babies are shipped around the North East, but I do.

NHS staff care hugely and I know medical teams are fiercely opposed to what’s happening to our hospital.

As do distressed new mams and dads who surely are entitled to the very best care locally instead of being forced to travel to another district to visit a child.

The pain inflicted on the NHS isn’t the only cruelty the Tory Government is imposing as it prays a Brexit consuming most of its energy also deflects criticism.

We know this week from the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation that more Tyneside low paid workers and pensioners are being pushed into deadening poverty by frozen and falling wages and vicious Tory benefit cuts - including tax credits and Universal Credit – on those in and out of work.

I applaud the volunteers running foodbanks but the 300% rise in demand since the Tories grabbed power seven years ago is an avoidable tragedy when virtually all are preventable hardship cases.

We don’t want a Conservative Government that is a misery creation machine, Scrooge and The Grinch rolled into one with no prospect of redemption.

The Tories have stolen hope, decent incomes and now our maternity services on South Tyneside. They’d steal Christmas if they thought they’d get away with it.