A 14-week consultation over the future of key hospital services in South Tyneside has been slammed as a “sham” by campaigners.
The Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign claim the voices of staff at the sharp end of service delivery at South Tyneside District Hospital are being deliberately blunted – and have demanded the process be halted.
The campaign group also claim the public is being hoodwinked into believing the consultation, which launched a month ago, is balanced.
Its claims come as NHS chiefs consider - under the Path to Excellence consultation - where some services can be best delivered.
These include stroke care services, maternity (obstetrics) and women’s healthcare services (inpatient gynaecology).
Urgent and emergency paediatric services are also included in the review.
Shirley Ford, of the campaign group, said: “It doesn’t feel like an open consultation. The options are laid out as cuts, cuts or more cuts. There’s no opportunity to entertain another way forward.
“It feels a bit like a sham. It’s a real concern of many staff that they were not part of the framing of this process. It is very frustrating and very worrying.
“The claimed rationale for change is to improve services but, if they would just admitted they have to make cuts because of national funding issues, that would be an honest way to look at this.”
Roger Nettleship, chair of the campaign group, added: “We have called for a halt to this consultation, not only because it is predicated on massive cuts, but because those running it claim the proposed options have been put forward with the involvement of our clinical teams at the hospital. We believe few clinicians, nurses and midwives have had any input.”
Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director, South Tyneside District Hospital said the Path to Excellence consultation did involve local doctors, nurses and NHS staff and is about the way care can be improved in South Tyneside and Sunderland.
He added: “One month into the consultation, we have already received over 1,000 comments from public events, which is being published onto the website and we have now have over 230 responses to the survey.
“We’re aware of concerns from patients, the public and staff and we will be holding more events to talk about some of these issues.
“I would like to reiterate that the consultation is a robust process and everyone is having the opportunity to have their say.”
Information on the consultation is available at www.pathtoexcellence.org.uk.