PM Theresa May denies responsibility for changes to hospital services in South Tyneside

Emma Lewell-Buck speaking in Parliament. Image by Parliament Live TV.
Emma Lewell-Buck speaking in Parliament. Image by Parliament Live TV.

Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament today that responsibility for changes to vital services at South Tyneside District Hospital lay with local health chiefs and not the Government.

Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck asked Mrs May during Prime Minister's Questions today for the reasons why changes to services are being supported by the Government when the majority of people are opposed to the proposals.

PM Theresa May speaking during Prime Minister's Questions. Image by Parliament Live TV.

PM Theresa May speaking during Prime Minister's Questions. Image by Parliament Live TV.

The question follows the decision by South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups earlier this year to make changes in the way maternity, stroke and children’s accident and emergency services will be delivered.

During Prime Minister's Questions held at Westminster, Mrs Lewell-Buck said: "Despite the groundswell of opposition from the public, staff and clinicians, this government is actively supporting the removal of vital services from South Tyneside Hospital.

"Can the Prime Minister tell the 149,000 people who rely on our hospital why?"

In response the Prime Minster said: "It is for the local NHS to make the decisions about the future of local health services.

Emma Lewell-Buck.

Emma Lewell-Buck.

"These matters are not determined in Whitehall, but I understand the Sunderland and South Tyneside Hospital Trust formed an alliance to improve the sustainability, quality and performance of hospital services.

"Local commissioners did consult with the public and they have agreed on a number of service changes in February which will improve services for patients."

Mrs Lewell-Buck also has the backing of 40 campaigners from the Save South Tyneside Hospital group who had traveled down to London in the hope of meeting with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about the issue.

The trip is being supported by Unison South Tyneside Health Branch, and will see some campaigners from South Tyneside and Sunderland watch the PMQs and meet with their local MPs before returning home.

Phase one of the Path to Excellence programme has been referred to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt by South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council’s joint health overview and scrutiny committee.

In February representatives from both NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Sunderland CCG held a meeting in public to make a decision on how they believe services should operate from the two sites.

They voted to combine all hospital-based stroke services to Sunderland, and to provide key paediatric and maternity services at the Wearside.

The bodies said their decisions would mean more people will survive a stroke, mothers can choose to have their baby in a new holistic birthing centre, and sick children will have access to the right paediatric doctors and nurses under reforms which would make "vulnerable local health services in South Tyneside and Sunderland safe for the future."

The decisions came after a consultation on the proposals.

Since they were announced, the proposed changes have been met fierce opposition from campaigners.

A number of protests and rallies have taken place - led by the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign.

Matt Brown, Director of Operations at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “These critical changes have been about taking steps to protect services that are exceptionally vulnerable because of a severe shortage of skilled medical and nursing staff.

"So there is no doubt, we state again that South Tyneside Hospital has a strong and vibrant future, serving local residents.

"These changes to services are about ensuring our services are appropriately staffed by the right numbers of skilled medical and nursing staff, so that we can provide the best possible care to local people.”

For more details on Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign visit: http://www.savesouthtynesidehospital.org