South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has welcomed a decision to refer planned changes at South Tyneside Dictrict Hospital to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The decision by South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council’s joint health overview and scrutiny committee, on Friday means Mr Hunt will be asked to rule on the decisions made by South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups over changes to three key hospital services.
South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups have decided:
*All acute stroke cases directed to Sunderland Royal Hospital;
*A midwifery-led birthing centre will operate at South Tyneside District Hospital, with a consultant-led obstetric unit at Sunderland;
*A nurse-led paediatric minor injury and illness facility will be established at South Tyneside District Hospital – open 8am to 10pm – with 24/7 paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal.
The scrutiny committee said they were not satisfied with the content of the consultation process and considers that the proposals would ‘not be in the interest of the health service in the area.’
Health chiefs say the changes are vital to protect services in the face of a shortage of skilled staff and there are no plans to closed the hospital in Harton Lane, South Shields.
Dr David Hambleton, chief executive officer at NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are really disappointed that local politicians feel that they cannot support these important changes to vulnerable services.
“We’ve been very clear from the start that these changes have been about taking steps to protect services that are vulnerable because of a severe shortage of skilled medical staff.
“This referral to the Secretary of State will increase the risk that the NHS has to change services in a crisis situation, which is not good for staff or patients.”
He added: “We are confident our consultation process was open and transparent, and the decisions about each of the services done for the right reasons.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “I am pleased that at last the Joint Scrutiny Committee has agreed to my long standing calls to refer the decisions made over the future of our hospital by the CCG to the Secretary of State.
“The people of our borough and the exceptional staff at South Tyneside District Hospital deserve better. It is beholden on the CCG to ensure that services are managed safely until such time as the referral and review process is complete.