Pathway to Excellence: Sunderland and South Tyneside Hospital chiefs ask councils to borrow cash to fund controversial health service shake-up

Council bosses could be asked to bankroll a controversial overhaul of care services in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

South Tyneside Hospital
South Tyneside Hospital

NHS bosses are preparing to ask the leaders of Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council to stump up the cash needed for the second phase of the Path to Excellence scheme.

The project is intended to cover areas such as emergency care, surgery and diagnostics.

But health chiefs have admitted they may need the help of the local authorities to pay for changes “required to transform local hospital services”.

Sunderland Royal Hospital

Ken Bremner, chief executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’ve had some very early positive discussions with local authority colleagues about how they might be able to support us.

“Our ambition is to create truly outstanding future hospital services and by working in partnership we have the potential to deliver major investment into local services.

“If the NHS is unable to support this funding, then we have entered into some discussions with local authority colleagues about whether they may be in a position to locally support this investment using their own borrowing powers.

“This would potentially help us secure better value for money for the taxpayer through much cheaper interest rates whilst also keeping the South Tyneside and Sunderland pound in the local area to make the very best use of resources.”

Health bosses hope to exploit the councils’ access to cheap Government credit to fund the Path to Excellence, should NHS funding not be forthcoming.

Public consultation on the changes was supposed to start this summer, but has been delayed.

Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said he had had “early conversations” with health chiefs about “potential options” for funding the scheme.

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council said: ”There is the potential that the Council could borrow money from the Treasury at a cheaper rate than from the banks, which is then repaid fully by the Trust at no cost to the Council.”