Praise for staff as mums-to-be will be able to give birth at South Tyneside Hospital from next week
Staff within South Tyneside Hospital's maternity unit have been thanked for working through challenges to allow babies to once again be delivered in the borough.
Campaigners were vocal in their dismay and anger when health bosses took the decision to temporarily close the unit.
The Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) closed in November with deliveries suspended at the hospital a week later.
The move received scathing criticism from campaigners who staged a protest outside of the hospital, last month.
Now, news expectant mothers will be able to give birth, once again at the hospital, starting on Monday, has been welcomed by those fighting to retain the service at the hospital.
The unit is one of a number of areas within the hospital currently being looked at as part of the Path to Excellence consultation.
Coun Tracey Dixon, Lead Member for Independence and Wellbeing, said: “This is very welcome news for the people of South Tyneside. I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to the staff who have worked through this unprecedented challenge and to the executives of the Trust and trade union staff for their support in these difficult circumstances.
“The temporary suspension of births at South Tyneside Hospital has caused much anxiety across the borough but we are pleased to see the Trust has services back up and running.
“Our ambition is to keep the care of our mums-to-be and babies as safe and as close to home as possible. We have called on the CCG through the Path to Excellence consultation process to ensure the future of maternity services in South Tyneside, not just in the next three months, but for the long term.”
Roger Nettleship, chairman of the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign said: “I think this is very good news for the people of South Tyneside and for the mother-to-be, to now have access to maternity services in South Tyneside.
“However, this has re-opened due to the fact the SCBU and the Maternity staff and the immediate managers as well as the people within the community.
“If the Trust and CCG had listened to them in the first place the service would not have had to close.
“We think the issue now, is we need to fight to keep the SCBU and the Maternity Unit Services open permanently and the Save the South Tyneside Hospital will campaign for this.”
Political officer for Jarrow CLP, Coun John McCabe, who has been vocal during the long-running Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, alongside fellow Jarrow councillors and party members, said: “For a maternity service that was second out of 131 NHS Trusts in England, how they could deem it possible to close such an excellent facility, is beyond comprehension.
“This was a premature decision. It should never have been closed.”
Ruth Berkley, vice chair of the Labour Party in South Shields, said: “South Shields Labour Party are delighted to hear that through working with staff full maternity services will resume at South Tyneside Foundation Trust. This is good news for the residents of South Shields, but we also need to maintain pressure on the CCG, who commission health services, so that they support maintaining a maternity unit in South Tyneside in the long term.”
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said: “The re-opening of maternity and SCBU will be met with relief from many expectant mams in South Tyneside. This re-opening is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our NHS frontline staff at the hospital. I sincerely hope this the beginning of a more positive trajectory for our hospital’s future.
“However, what remains a concern is that the press release from the Trust states this is only for three months and uncertainty remains until decisions are reached regarding the overall consultation on the future of maternity and other services at the hospital.
“I sincerely hope that the Trust and the CCG have took cognisance of the views and strength of feeling of my constituents and will proactively seek to ensure people in Shields have the same safe access to health care as those elsewhere, it is what we deserve.”
The long-term future of the special care baby unit at South Tyneside District Hospital has recently been consulted on as part of phase one of the Path to Excellence programme which has considered options for three service areas, including maternity. The formal public consultation for this concluded on October 15 and a decision about the long-term future is expected from NHS South Tyneside CCG and NHS Sunderland CCG in February 2018.