Hundreds take part in first Save South Tyneside Hospital march
Protesters of all ages stood side by side with representatives from political parties to march in protest to NHS cuts which they fear could see hospital services transferred from South Tyneside to Sunderland.
Trade Unions, Unison, the GMB and Unite were also represented as well as groups including Harton and Westoe Miners Banner Group.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck and Jarrow and Hebburn MP Stephen Hepburn also joined marchers as they made their way from Haven Point to Barrington Street.
As protesters made their way through King Street, shoppers gave them their full support.
A number of guest speakers took to the stage to encourage residents to continue with their support as organisers announced a petition backing their campaign has now hit 10,000 signatures.
The campaign was created after a new alliance was announced between South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospital Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
There are fears the hospital in South Shields will be downgraded, with Sunderland Royal dealing with more acute services, when the newly created The South of Tyne Healthcare Group is in full swing.
Guest Speaker Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “People have a genuine fear that if we lose our clinical services and people have to travel to Sunderland that increased travel time can make all the difference between someone losing their life and someone living.”
Other speakers who took to the stage included Jarrow and Hebburn MP Stephen Hepburn and representatives from Trade Unions.
Roger Nettleship, chairman of the campaign, said: “Let’s be clear, our hospital is under a very real threat.
“Health care is a right, it is not a privilege and should be protected.”
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief Executive Ken Bremner said: “South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trusts formed the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group earlier this year as a way of looking at how we can work together so we can ensure that the local communities we serve continue to receive high quality and sustainable hospital and community health services into the future.
“The NHS locally, regionally and nationally is facing unprecedented financial pressure and demand on services and we strongly believe that action to address the risks this presents needs to be taken now and we have the strong support of South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS England and our regulator, NHS Improvement, in this partnership approach.
“Both Trusts recognise the importance and value of having a local hospital providing a range of emergency and planned services but, equally, we recognise the urgent need to rebalance services across our two areas as it will no longer be safe or sustainable to duplicate the provision of all services in each location. Through the Healthcare Group, we are working on an ambitious programme of reviewing services in a way that delivers the best patient outcomes in both areas and any proposed major changes to services which result will be subject to full public consultation. Attempts to undermine the Healthcare Group are not in the best interests of our patients and residents, as it is this partnership working which will play an important part in making the best use of increasingly stretched NHS staff and resources.”