The letter from senior health chiefs contain a series of warnings that delays to the proposed changes could have a serious impact on the safety of patients.
In a letter to the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, both South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups, and the Chief Executive of both hospital trusts, stated their case.
They fear any delay in allowing decisions to the key services from being implemented will put the lives of patients at risk.
The main points of the letter state:
*Stroke, obstetrics (maternity) and gynaecology and paediatrics (children’s) emergency services are amongst those South Tyneside and Sunderland hospital based services facing the most severe workforce sustainability challenges, driven predominantly by a limited medical workforce resulting in service continuity, quality and financial pressures.
If there is a formal referral, then the two hospital foundation trusts would need to halt the mobilisation and implementation on these
changes until such time we are advised by the SoS or the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) of the outcome.
We are aware that current timescales for response by the IRP could be as long as six to nine months.
We feel strongly that in the interests of patient safety we are not able to delay changes to these fragile services any longer.
*Not implementing the option on stroke treatment as soon as possible means the trusts cannot improve the acute and community rehabilitation elements of care, which increases the risk of disability for patients;
*Any delay in implementing The changes will be a significant risk in the foundation trusts having to make changes in a crisis situation in order to protect patient safety,”
*In South Tyneside, the foundation trust continues to struggle to fill the paediatric middle grade rota on a weekly basis and often relies on consultants acting down.
This places the service at risk some days when there will be no senior cover onsite, meaning the Trust will not be able to take patient admissions overnight with the consequent knock on effect on the Special Care Baby Unit and maternity services.
“There are also some acute staffing pressures with the obstetric middle-grade rota which again will have a knock on effect with consultant cover;
*Staff have expressed concern that any delay to the April 2019 implementation date or further uncertainty would contribute to staff potentially leaving and looking for jobs elsewhere, thereby exacerbating the service vulnerabilities and workforce issues even further;