South Shields hospital legal battle cost health chiefs £100,000

Health chiefs in South Tyneside spent about £100,000 fighting a legal battle by campaigners to overturn controversial reform plans.

Thursday, 24th January 2019, 4:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th January 2019, 5:08 pm

Stroke, maternity and pediatric care in Sunderland and South Tyneside are all due to be overhauled following December’s judicial review victory at the High Court in Leeds.

Care bosses claimed the judge’s verdict was an ‘unambiguous’ vindication of their plans and have expressed regret at the cost of the challenge.

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Dr David Hambleton, chief executive of South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), told a meeting of the CCG’s governing body: “We spent an inordinate amount of our time and money having to defend the decision we made.

“We had to pay the barrister at the judicial review and this probably meant we spent about £100,000 defending that case.

“That was money we could have spent in other ways but it was money we had to use to prove we were acting in the best interests of the public.”

He added the court’s own costs of staging the review would also have increased the total burden on the public purse.

David Hambleton

Roger Nettleship, chairman of the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign, was also at the CCG meeting and confirmed the group may consider an appeal once Judge Raeside’s verdict has been officially published.

He said: “The judge acknowledged the people of South Tyneside have genuine concerns about the availability of services.”

The judicial review against the CCGs for Sunderland and South Tyneside was brought by campaigners - arguing the planned changes were ‘fundamentally unfair’ and ‘unlawful’.

Lawyers for the protesters claimed health chiefs had already made up their minds before going out to public consultation.

This included an accusation there had been ‘no attempt’ to consider keeping services, which covered stroke, maternity and pediatric care, as they were.

But after two days of legal arguments His Honour Judge Mark Raeside QC sided with care bosses.

Dr Hambleton said: “I think the verdict was a really clear vindication of the work we’ve done and the approach we’ve taken, not just in the last year, but several years prior to that.

“This was not a technicality, this was a clear judgement in our favour and the judge was unambiguous in what he said.

“We took those decisions on the basis on the basis local clinicians had come up with plans to address very urgent need to address services in the borough.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service