South Tyneside hospital patients could opt for Gateshead and Newcastle

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Hospital patients in Hebburn and Jarrow could scupper plans to revamp health service in the borough by opting be treated in Gateshead and Newcastle, a councillor claims.

NHS chiefs have been warned their flagship plans to overhaul services in the borough and Sunderland could be for nothing if those needing care cannot get to it because of inconvenient transport links.

Coun John McCabe, who raised the concerns at a meeting of Hebburn Cummunity Forum, said there was little they or the clinical commissioning groups behind the plans could do to bring in the necessary changes on their own.

He said: “The CCGs have no control over public transport and there’s nothing the council can do under the existing legislation to put on extra transport.

“The problem we’ve got in Hebburn is you need two buses and a Metro to get to Sunderland.

“That is not good enough and it needs to be looked at it. People will take the shorter journey to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead or the RVI in Newcastle.”

Coun McCabe was responding to a presentation by South Tyneside CCG on phase two of its controversial Path to Excellence scheme at the forum.

Phase one, which covered stroke, maternity and pediatric care, has started following a failed appeal to government and legal challenge.

Both of these included concerns about travel and transport.

Matt Brown, director of operations at the CCG, acknowledged this issue was still being raised by the public.

He said: “A dedicated partnership of travel and transport stakeholders has been set up to address the issues raised by local people during the public consultation for Phase One of Path to Excellence.

“As plans progress, we’re focussed on travel planning and improving the information available to patients, families and visitors on how to access each hospital site by public transport.

“Stakeholders involved in this work include local transport providers, elected members, local authority officers, the Tyne and Wear Public Transport User Groups as well as both Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospital representatives.”

Phase two of the Path to excellence covers areas including emergency care, surgery, diagnostics and outpatients services.

Plans currently being considered for inclusion in a formal public consultation could see:

*Operations deemed ‘high-risk or complex’ carried out at Sunderland Royal Hospital

*A ‘Centre of Surgical Excellence’ at South Tyneside District Hospital for ‘the majority’ of planned surgery.

*An ‘Integrated Diagnostic and Imaging Centre’ in South Tyneside which would also serve patients from both the borough and Sunderland

Mr Brown said: “What we want is the best possible clinical experience we can provide, we want to make sure we can get access to consultant-led care seven days a week.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service