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Emma Lewell-Buck: Act now for the sake of our hospital’s future

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

Today I am leading a debate in Parliament on the future of South Tyneside District Hospital.

In this debate I will be holding the Government to account for their forced dismantling of our NHS, as well as our own local NHS leaders and decision-making bodies for the flawed and inadequate consultation process people that people in South Shields have been subjected to.

Since plans first surfaced of an “alliance” between South Tyneside Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital, I have voiced concerns that this merger was a precursor to a takeover and expressed grave worries that South Tyneside Hospital would be downgraded. For well over a year now I have remained, despite personal attacks and abuse from some, consistent in that view.

I was deeply disappointed when, without any consultation, our Stroke Unit was moved to Sunderland and that, despite promises this was a temporary measure, phase one of a three- phase consultation named the ‘Path to Excellence ‘recommended that not only does our Stroke Unit not return, but included options that see our maternity, women’s health care and children and young people’s urgent and emergency paediatrics dramatically downgraded.

The draft consultation document has since been released. The document is an unintelligible 147 pages long. It is almost impossible to glean from it what the outcome of the consultation was. My own contribution to the consultation was a reflection of the information I have been given from the Clinical Commission Group and the Trust leading this process, as well as the staff at the hospital, trade unions and the thousands of views I have gathered from my constituents. In my conclusion to this consultation, I stated I that rejected it and that more equitable proposals in the favour of South Tyneside needed to come forward.

The shock closures due to ‘staffing issues’ (The same rationale applied to the removal of our Stroke Services) of our Special Care Baby Unit and Maternity Unit over the past two weeks have seen us reach the stage where no more babies are being born in South Tyneside. Yet the Maternity Unit has the full complement of staff present as it has done historically when it was fully operational. The staff have even presented the Trust with a workable rota system to keep the unit delivering, so there is no reason why this closure is continuing. I

have already been advised of mothers- to-be having to find on average £40.00 for round-trip journeys to other hospitals in the region when they thought they were due to deliver. One woman has been sent home, resulting in a home birth as she simply couldn’t afford another taxi and ambulance waiting times are just too long. This situation is completely dangerous and unsustainable for my constituents. It also takes away a woman’s right to choose how she gives birth.

It has become very clear that there is something just not right with the entire situation here in South Tyneside, an urgent review is needed into all organisations involved in this process and at all levels. This is why I would urge you to support the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign’s crowdfunding to raise money for a potential Judicial Review. If we don’t fight for our hospital now, we will all pay the price in the future.

Please, if you can, donate to the campaign at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save- south-tyneside- hospital/

Thank you.