Decisions over the future of three key hospital services in South Tyneside could be referred to the Secretary of State.
The potential appeal to Jeremy Hunt will be discussed by members of South Tyneside Council’s joint health scrutiny committee next week following over decisions made by South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups to overhaul stroke, maternity and gynaecology and children’s emergency services at South Tyneside District Hospital.
The committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the changes - part of phase one of the CCG’s Path to Excellence.
Decisions reached include:
* All acute stroke cases directed to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
*A free-standing midwifery-led unit (FMLU), known as a birthing centre, operated at South Tyneside District Hospital, with a medically-led obstetric unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
*The development of a nurse-led paediatric minor injury and illness facility at South Tyneside District Hospital – open 8am to 10pm – and 24/7 paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal. Before that, as a short-term step, there will be a daytime paediatric emergency department at South Tyneside District Hospital and 24/7 paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal.
Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and wellbeing at South Tyneside Council, said: “The decisions concerning changes to hospital services will be discussed at a special meeting of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee next Thursday.
“Now that the decisions have been made, one of the options the Committee may consider is to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health which they could only do at the end of the consultation process.
“The decision is the Scrutiny Committee’s to make independent of the council.”
Health chiefs say the decision were taken after a “a fair consultation process” and “are in the best interests of patients.”
Campaigners have enlisted law firm Irwin Mitchell to challenge the legality of the decisions.
The firm has written to the NHS Trusts and CCG’s involved, and South Tyneside Council, to outline the serious concerns held by the group which include that ‘the consultation that closed in October was not a fair consultation’ and they did not explain anywhere within it, why locating the services at South Tyneside Hospital was not an option.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, chair of South Tyneside CCG, said: “We do not accept that the decisions taken by the governing bodies of the two CCGs were unlawful.
“We are satisfied that we have undertaken a fair consultation process and the decisions are in the best interests of patients.
“The options we took to public consultation were deemed to offer safe and sustainable services for the future. By safe and high quality services, we mean care that treats your medical condition by the correct professional, with access to the best diagnostics and treatment to give people the best possible chance of recovery and if patients are not able to recover, does not make them worse or do harm.
“We’ve been very clear that the current situation cannot continue, and I know that these changes to these important local services are absolutely the right thing to do that will have a direct impact on people’s experiences of care and the clinical outcomes they will have. With the decisions we have made, we will have saved more people’s lives with the best solutions that keep people alive and well the longest.”
“So there is no element of doubt and to be categorically clear, retaining the status quo and not making any changes is simply not an option for these services – and as local health care leaders we must act in the best interests of patients as our first duty of care to our patients is do no harm.
A crowdfunding page set up to help fund the Save South Tyneside Hospital legal campaign, currently stands at £5,252. To donate visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-south-tyneside-hospital/.