South Tyneside’s two MPs have hit out at proposed changes to hospital services as consultations continue into the future of health care provision in the borough.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck and Hebburn and Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn let their views be known during a meeting of the South Tyneside and Sunderland Council Joint Health Scrutiny Committee.
Both say they have “grave concerns” over the consultation process itself as well as transport issues and increased demands on staff, if plans to move services from South Tyneside to Sunderland go ahead.
NHS bosses launched a public consultation in July into the shake-up of services at South Tyneside District Hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, as part of the Path to Excellence project.
Services affected by the proposals include maternity services, special care baby units, gynaecology, and inpatient surgery.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “There is no secret and I have repeatedly expressed by views that the consultation has not been as transparent as the CCG has led us to believe.
“We are being told key clinicians are being consulted but I have them writing to me saying that’s not true.
“I have also been told by a former chief executive that South Tyneside will become a cottage hospital and that he couldn’t guarantee an A&E.
“This hasn’t gone away. This is going to get worse and worse and people are worried they are going to lose their hospital.”
In response Ken Bremner, Chief Executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust told the meeting he believed South Tyneside District Hospital “has a future.”
He said: “The hospital has got a future. As I’ve said before, it will be doing different things in the future.
“Being a cottage hospital is not part of the agenda.”
Mr Hepburn echoed the concerns raised by his South Shields counterpart.
He said: “How can we call it a path to excellence when services are being downgraded?
“We have 2,000 children born in South Tyneside every year. How many of these children will be born in Sunderland?
“I also have to raise the issue of consultation. I have had meetings with senior clinicians - many of them afraid to put their head above the parapet.”
Mr Bremner said the two hospitals were working to try and get “the best” out of South Tyneside and Sunderland hospital for residents in light of staff shortages and cuts as well as making the area a more attractive place where doctors want to come work.
The consultation into the changes is to continue until next month.
For more details visit pathtoexcellence.org.uk/get-involved