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South Tyneside hospital decision referred to Westminster

Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

Councillors on South Tyneside are recommending that proposals to change hospital services for residents in South Tyneside should be referred to the Secretary of State for Health.

Members of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee agreed to refer the matter on the grounds that the Path to Excellence consultation was inadequate and that the proposals are not in the interests of the health services in the area.

The Committee had been sent a letter from South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups advising that any plans to delay the review of hospital services could put lives at risk.

This Committee has spent very many hours scrutinising the proposals put forward by the CCGs. We recognise that local hospital services are an emotive topic for our residents and for ourselves as people who live in the Borough but this decision has been made for clear and valid reasons.

We will not be bullied into making any decision that we feel is not in the interests of the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland.”

– Co-Chair of the Committee, Councillor Rob Dix

At the meeting, councillors were thanked by residents and members of the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign group for referring the matter back to Westminster.

The decision to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, will now go to South Tyneside Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Sunderland Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee for ratification.

However, the NHS says the changes are unavoidable and any delays will bring risks.

We are really disappointed that local politicians feel that they cannot support these important changes to vulnerable services.

We’ve been very clear from the start that these changes have been about taking steps to protect services that are vulnerable because of a severe shortage of skilled medical staff.

We are at a loss to understand why it is that councillors feel that delaying these changes do not present a real risk to patient safety. This referral to the secretary of state for health will increase the risk that the NHS has to change services in a crisis situation, which is not good for staff or patients in the same way we had to at Christmas over special care baby unit and maternity services.

We are confident that our consultation process was open and transparent, and the decisions about each of the services done for the right reasons based on evidence and we know that staff in these services have said they would like to get on with the changes and end uncertainty.

We would have wished to have the opportunity to address any particular concerns that elected members have, again it’s really disappointing that we have not been afforded this opportunity in order to do everything we can in the best interest of patients we serve.”

– Dr David Hambleton, chief executive officer at NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group