STEPHEN HEPBURN: We have the NHS and we need to save it!

South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.

No sooner do I raise the threat to South Tyneside Hospital than we discover medical care is in danger across England!

The shared misery is a flashing blue light, a warning to fight to save what we value or we’ll lose precious services.

South Tyneside District Hospital.

South Tyneside District Hospital.

And we need a Labour Government because the NHS isn’t safe in Theresa May’s Conservative hands, just as it wasn’t in the sweaty clutches of David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher.

I’m more determined than ever to protect services at our local hospital after they foolishly shut the hugely popular Jarrow NHS Walk-In Centre, despite losing the argument to campaigners who demonstrated why it needed to stay open.

So we must protest for South Tyneside Hospital to survive. Services are under review and I’m genuinely worried.

The closure of the hospital’s children’s ward in 2012 forces young people who need more than 24 hours’ treatment to be taken by their parents to Sunderland or Newcastle.

The concern is what’s described as an alliance between South Tyneside and Sunderland Hospitals will see South Tyneside lose out with Sunderland Royal Hospital in future providing, for example, maternity services and treatment for strokes.

When from September the Chief Executive of City Hospitals Sunderland will also be the Chief Executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, I understand why they believe that.

Because people aren’t stupid. They can see what’s going on with our NHS.

Fears that all is not well on South Tyneside are fanned by the discovery NHS England is drawing up vitally important if boringly named Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

Produced locally across the country without consultation with patients and medics, we know from leaks these unpublished documents propose ward closures, cuts in beds, changes to GPs and in some cases the end of accident and emergency units.

I believe the public has a right to know immediately what might happen in North East England so we can shape any proposals instead of being presented with butchery that would not be in our name.

I’ve already spoken with doctors’ leaders and representatives of NHS staff in the Unison trade union and I will be meeting with the Chief Executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust to discuss your worries.

I’ll be looking for assurances from the people at the top that South Tyneside Hospital isn’t next on the chopping block.

The call by a former Tory Health Minister Dan Poulter for a new NHS Tax is a damning Conservative admission the Government isn’t properly funding our health service. If it had enough money, we’d be improving care instead of cutting services.

The extra money needed, by the way, shouldn’t be a tax slapped on low and middle earners.

Labour has a much fairer plan: require the rich to pay their proper whack, especially tycoons who squirrel away huge profits in tax havens instead of investing in our country.

I’m proud a Labour Government rescued our NHS from appalling Tory neglect back in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s.

I’m proud Labour reduced waiting times, boosted treatments, improved care, built new centres and hospitals, recruited thousands of extra staff and trebled spending.

And it breaks my heart to see the Tories slam the NHS into reverse gear, neglecting a public service the ideologues in the Conservative Party detest.

With my fellow MP Emma Lewell-Buck, the Labour MP for South Shields, and local councillors, I’ll stand up for South Tyneside Hospital.

My dear old mam used to say that sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

We’ve got the NHS. Let’s save it.