Hospital campaigners urge council leader to back cause

Council leader Iain Malcolm.
Council leader Iain Malcolm.

A council leader who is being challenged to back a campaign to save hospital services earns up to £15,000 as a director of the Trust at the centre of the dispute.

Coun Iain Malcolm is being called upon to publicly state his position over a protest – launched by the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign group – to stop the downgrading of acute and emergency services at South Tyneside District Hospital.

“Whether he signs the petition is another issue, but as an elected official people should know his stance on this issue and if he supports the campaign or not.”

Shirley Ford

As a non-executive director of the same South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, Coun Malcolm earns between £10,000 and £15,000 a year from the position.

The campaign was launched following an alliance being between South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which has already seen the re-location of the acute stroke unit from South Tyneside to Sunderland – although health chiefs say this is a temporary measure.

The campaign received a boost when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn signed their petition on his recent visit to South Tyneside.

Jarrow Constituency Labour Party has now thrown its weight behind the fight – passing the motion condemning the stroke services being taken out of South Tyneside and calling for no more services to go.

The group has now asked for the motion to be presented at the next South Tyneside Council Labour group meeting, and is calling on the party and full council to support it and the public alliance’s campaign.

Coun Malcolm is also chairman of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board and says he fully supports the work of the NHS.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council issued a statement on his behalf.

It said: “Any campaign that highlights the underfunding of our NHS has the Leader’s support.

“He will be meeting with Clare Williams the regional secretary of UNISON to discuss how they can work together to defend vital services at both the South Tyneside and Sunderland hospital sites.

“The leader is more than happy to sign any petition that highlights the need to protect our local hospitals.

“As a non exec director of the trust, he is at the forefront of working to deliver good quality health services for local residents within the financial envelope provided by the government”.

The leader of the South Tyneside Green Party, Shirley Ford, says it is time for the leader of the council to publicly state where he stands specifically on the Save the Hospital campaign.

She said: “The support we have received for the campaign has been wonderful. We have had both MPs getting behind the campaign and many Labour councillors.

“This is not about party politics, this is about fighting to protect our hospital services for the people of South Tyneside.

“I understand the leader is in a position where he is a non-executive director of the Trust and chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, and this petition is addressed to those bodies who all share the responsibilty in the decision making on this.”

She added: “Obviously we would like a clearer statement from the council leader. It’s not enough to say he is fully supporting the NHS but the provision of a full A&E and acute services in our borough despite the financial pressures coming from the government.

“This alliance is not about improving health services. It’s about money and people can see through all that.

“As a campaign group we want much more of a public statement from the leader of the council, as this is his primary role. He is elected as a councillor and as leader he must be making more of a public statement.

“Whether he signs the petition is another issue, but as an elected official people should know his stance on this issue and if he supports the campaign or not.”

The campaign, being spearheaded by the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance and the Green Party, has almost 3,000 signatures on its online petition with thousands more signing in support of the campaign.