Hospital shake up legal challenge rejected but campaigners may appeal

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A judge has ruled against a legal bid to force a re-think of plans to overhaul care at hospitals in South Tyneside and Sunderland.

The Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign had brought the judicial review to try and prevent changes stroke, maternity and pediatric care.

Health chiefs have welcomed the decision by His Honour Judge Mark Raeside QC at the High Court in Leeds.

The protest group say they will consider an appeal.

They claimed NHS bosses had run a ‘fundamentally unfair’ and ‘unlawful’ consultation on the proposals, with decisions made behind closed doors.

Today, following two days of evidence, this was rejected by Judge Raeside.

He said: “I do not find at this stage that it was so clearly and radically wrong as to render this process unfair and unlawful.”

“Taken as a whole, I consider that there is overwhelming evidence provided that the options the CCGs selected had been properly selected. Their preference for the options they did select was with a proper legal basis.”

The planned shake-up of services included:

*Moving acute stroke care from South Tyneside District Hospital to Sunderland Royal Hospital

*Changes to management of maternity care, with a consultant-led unit in Sunderland and a midwife-led department in South Tyneside

*An overhaul of paediatric care, leading to daytime emergency provision in South Tyneside and 24/7 provision in Sunderland

It was claimed the lack of a ‘do nothing’ option showed health bosses had been ‘completely fixed’ on forcing the changes through, regardless of public opinion.

But Judge Raeside disagreed, claiming information made available to the public demonstrated the CCGs’ claim that hospitals were ‘facing an unprecedented challenge’ and doing nothing was not a viable option.

The full judgement is expected to be formally published in the New Year.

Health chiefs from the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside welcomed the decision.

Matt Brown, director of operations at South Tyneside CCG, said: “While we understand people’s concerns, these changes have always been about doing what is right for our patients and protecting hospital services which are extremely vulnerable.

“These are much valued services and both CCGs took their decision making very seriously, based on clear clinical evidence and in the best interests of people in South Tyneside and Sunderland.

“We are already seeing real improvements as a result of the interim changes we have made, particularly for stroke patients in South Tyneside.”

Roger Nettleship, chairman of the campaign, said protestors would consider an appeal.

He said: “We’re very disappointed at the outcome today. We’re going away to consider the outcome and what steps we are going to take or may take next.

“We’re not ruling out an option for appeal.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service