Hundreds walk in protest over proposed changes to services at South Tyneside Hospital
Side by side, with banners held proud, youngsters joined their adult counterparts as they marched along Ocean Road and King Street to a meeting point near the market place where a rally was held. The protest, organised by Save the South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, is in response to what they are calling a downgrading of hospital services at South Shields in areas including stroke, obstetrics and gynaecology (including maternity) and emergency care for children. Last year, when the first march and rally was held the campaign had attracted 10,000 signatures. A year on and chairman of the group Roger Nettleship announced that figure had increased to more than 30,000. Speaking at the rally, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said: “Last year, I warned that the alliance between South Tyneside and Sunderland Hospitals would be a merger. But in reality, we know that’s not true, it is actually a massive takeover.”She raised the issue over transport with many residents in South Tyneside needing to travel on two buses to get to Sunderland Royal Hospital or take a taxi which she claimed would cost them more than Â£40 for a return journey. She added: “There is nothing safe, nothing sustainable about these plans.”The rally also heard from Save South Tyneside Hospital co-ordinator Gemma Taylor and Unison representative Marion Langley. During speeches, those in the crowd were to review and consultations had been due to be carried out in three phases, however, that has now reduced to two. MP for Jarrow and Hebburn, Stephen Hepburn said: “The Tories hate the health service as it shows socialism works and they don’t like that. That’s why they want rid of it, and that’s why we are going to keep on fighting for it. “We are the many, they are the few. It’s our NHS, so tell them to keep their grubby hands off it.”Next year, marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of the NHS created by Labour to ensure people from all walks of life had access to healthcare. Last week, South Tyneside Council’s cabinet called on decision makers to re-think the proposals in its response to the consultation in particular in the area of maternity.The first phase of public consultation Path to Excellence closes at midnight tomorrow.