South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has challenged health chiefs to clarify their plans for the future of South Tyneside Hospital.
Mrs Buck spoke out after NHS chiefs have shared their ambitions to turn South Tyneside District Hospital into a centre for surgical excellence for planned operations - with emergency surgery taking place in Sunderland - and set up a new diagnostic and imaging centre in the site.
The potential moves are included in an “draft case for change’ which hospital bosses say takes on board the views of more than 9,000 staff and patients - and represents the “early thinking and emerging ideas” on ways to potentially solve the challenges facing the NHS services in the area.
The hospital trust says it also aims to ensure continued 24/7 access to urgent or emergency care in both South Tyneside and Sunderland.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said of the document: “I’m afraid that, yet again, the proposals do not make it clear to the public what South Tyneside Hospital is actually losing.
“All three options presented for our Accident and Emergency Department remove the provision of emergency surgery in South Tyneside. No amount of window dressing should hide that fact.
“In addition, the options include moving our services for people with life-threatening emergencies to Sunderland.
“I have fought against this from the outset and I will continue to fight alongside the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign to retain our key core and essential services where we need them, which is here in South Tyneside.
Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director at South Tyneside District Hospital and clinical lead for the Path to Excellence programme, said: “By sharing our vision for the future and the early thinking from our frontline clinical and nursing teams, we want to gather as many views and opinions as possible.
“Our ‘working ideas’ are exactly that, they are ‘working ideas’, they are not options, they are not set in stone and they absolutely remain open to influence.
“To be clear, we have not yet determined what any future options for public consultation might be and this is why we want people’s views on our ideas so far to make sure we come up with the best possible future scenarios.
“One thing is certain, whatever future service models do evolve, our emergency care centre in South Tyneside would continue to be open 24/7 to provide round the clock urgent access for local people, but we do need to think differently in terms of how that care is delivered in future.
“The pressures in our workforce and challenges facing the NHS are extreme. As difficult and uncomfortable as it may be to talk about change, we simply cannot ignore the issues we face.”
Hospital bosses are seeking views on what is important to local people, and why, when accessing hospital care.
Drop-in roadshows will take place as follows:
Wednesday March 13, 10am – 2pm Hebburn Central
Thursday March 14, 10am – 2pm Flagg Court Primary Care
Wednesday March 20, 10am – 2pm Boldon Asda
Thursday March 21, 10am – 4pm Sunderland Asda
Monday March 25, 9am – 5pm South Shields High Street
Tuesday March 26, 10am – 2pm Alexander’s restaurant, South Tyneside District Hospital
Tuesday March 26, 9am – 5pm Jarrow Town Centre
Wednesday March 27, 9am – 5pm Hebburn Town Centre
Wednesday March 27, 10am – 2pm South Shields Asda
Thursday March 28, 10am – 2pm Main Outpatients, Palmer Community Hospital