The fight goes on to save South Tyneside Hospital services - Emma Lewell-Buck MP
On Monday I joined campaigners outside South Tyneside Hospital, expressing deep concern that, later that day, our Children’s Accident and Emergency would cease to be a 24-hour service and will now close between 10pm every night and re-open at 8am the following day.
This change, along with the decision to cease consultant-led maternity and closure of the Special Care Baby Unit, is being challenged via a legal appeal, spearheaded by ‘Save South Tyneside Hospital' campaigners.
Children needing medical attention at night now need to travel to, or will be rapidly transferred from, South Tyneside’s generic A&E Department to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Expectant mams who want to give birth with the peace of mind a consultant-led service offers will have to travel to Sunderland.
Parents and families of babies who are in need of special care will also have to travel to and from Sunderland to see their little ones.
I have been clear that I do not believe these changes are in the best interests of my constituents, who (Including many staff from the hospital) have been clear with me that they are very angry indeed and very worried about these changes.
It can take either around 30 minutes in a car or at least two buses to get to Sunderland. We live in one of the lowest areas for car ownership in the country.
We are among the most deprived local authority areas in the country, yet we are seeing our services being stripped away in favour of Sunderland day by day.
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From the outset these changes have been driven by cuts enforced by the Government. The goal and central aim is not to improve services. The Tories have never valued our NHS, whereas Labour sees it as one of our greatest achievements. Tories see it as a business opportunity for profit.
As these changes embed, I will be closely monitoring their impact and ensuring that those responsible for forcing these changes through are held accountable.
The next phase of changes proposed for our hospital will include A&E, emergency and planned surgery, planned care and outpatients and clinical support services.
However, for the Trust and CCG to move ahead with this, they need £50 million pound. They have asked our Council to consider providing a £35 million loan to fund this.
If the council makes that loan, then it becomes the responsibility of South Tyneside Council Tax payers, who would bear the risk of the loan not being repaid by the CCG.
Effectively, we are being asked to actively facilitate the downgrading of our own hospital services. I am urging our Councillors to do the right thing by taking a position against providing this loan. The fact remains that if the changes, which are stripping away our services, cannot be funded, then they cannot be implemented.
The fight for our hospital is far from over and, as your MP, I will not give anyone, or any organisation who puts the lives of people I represent at risk, a minute’s peace.