On Saturday I was proud to walk along the streets of South Shields, shoulder to shoulder with some of the most dedicated, sincere and passionate people I know.
We were marching with ‘Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign’ to show support to staff and service users of the District Hospital, who have been subject to denial and subterfuge in expressing genuine concerns over the consultation about the future of our local health provision and, along with the public who attended, to oppose the downgrading of our hospital.
Many of us, myself included, have been with the campaign from the outset, now over a year ago.
It was heartening on Saturday to see that even people who initially dismissed the campaign as ‘scaremongering’ now saw fit to join us.
The reality is that the options put forward in phase one of this consultation will take away our right to access important services in South Tyneside.
Consultant-led maternity, stroke services, 24–hour gynaecology, children and young people’s 24-hour urgent and emergency services – and this is only the beginning! We don’t know yet what phase two will propose.
The options in the consultation are weighted towards taking services to Sunderland.
In the case of stroke services, for example, they have already been transferred without any public consultation, and there is now no option proposed to bring them back!
Now is the time to join the campaign – if our services go to Sunderland, we will not get them back.
Please lobby us – write to your MPs, your councillors, attend meetings of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee that has been set up to oversee the impact of the proposals.
I will continue to ask your councillors to refer this consultation to the Secretary of State, refuse to sign the plans or seek a judicial review, as have many councils across England.
Any one of these options will halt the downgrading of our hospital and could result in South Tyneside retaining vital services.
Fundamentally, this process has not been carried out with integrity and is not in the interests of my constituents.
Clinical staff have told me that they were prevented from taking part in formulating options.
Critical information is missing and some of the information is flawed and unrealistic.
This Tory Government is determined to put your public services into the hands of the private sector – to make a profit from your ill-health.
They are starving the NHS of resources to make it fail, to justify handing it to private companies.
This is OUR NHS and it is fighting for its own life.
Our CCG has chosen to put forward options that disadvantage you.
Can you afford to make a three-bus journey to and from Sunderland Royal Hospital if your loved one is admitted there, or your poorly baby is in the special care baby unit?
Does South Tyneside not warrant retaining its own services rather than having to go to the next ‘big city’?
Is there an ambulance available immediately to ‘blue-light’ you to Sunderland when the delivery of your baby becomes complicated?
There are many more questions than answers. We deserve better. I will fight for our hospital.