The leader of South Tyneside Council has hit back at calls by the South Shields MP, Emma Lewell-Buck for councillors to put a halt to revamp plans which she claims are “damaging” South Tyneside District Hospital.
Mrs Lewell-Buck made the call following an announcement that the hospital’s special baby care unit is to close temporarily, a move hospital bosses say is due to staff shortages.
It is hoped the unit will reopen in the New Year.
Mrs Lewell-Buck says she fears the unit could be closed permenantly and called on South Tyneside’s Labout councillors to halt plans to potentially change the services which are available at the hospital.
But Coun Malcom says the council has not signed up to the NHS sustainability and transformation plans because of the “lack of involvement” by local authorities and that they believed the process “has not been transparent enough.”
He added: “In this particular case there is a shortage of trained nurses and clinicians, not just in South Tyneside, but across the country which is the responsibility of the Tory Government for not putting in enough resources to a career in the NHS a viable option.
“In terms of where we go from here, I am certain the scrutiny panel will be looking at calling a meeting with South Tyneside Foundation Trust and the CCG to ask what has happened here and how this has happened without any warning?
“There is a lot of anxiety among the staff and the public in regards to the viability of a whole range of services going forward.
“The council does not control this process. The CCG provides the commissioning of services and the hospital delivers them.”
Dr David Hambleton, Chief Officer at NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We support the difficult decision by the trust to temporarily suspend the special care baby unit due to serious staffing pressures.
“While we understand people’s concerns, our primary concern is for the safety of women and babies and our duty of care to the staff team.
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust is working with neighbouring special care baby units and maternity services to put in place measures for any babies requiring special care over the coming weeks.