A new campaign group has been formed to ensure acute hospital services - including the stroke and maternity units - stay in South Tyneside.
The Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign was created after a new alliance was announced between South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospital Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
There’s fears South Tyneside Hospital in South Shields will be downgraded, with Sunderland Royal dealing with more acute services, when the newly created The South of Tyne Healthcare Group is in full swing
The campaign group, which is being spearheaded by the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance, and the Green Party, is aiming to safeguard the future of the borough’s services amid concerns that man units are already involved in consultation processes.
Hospital bosses have confirmed consultations being held at the moment but these aren’t related to the alliance.
Michelle Arrowsmith, the Trust’s chief operating officer, said: “As staff are aware, we have recently entered into a partnership alliance with City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. An initial element of this alliance is to undertake a full review of the clinical services in each organisation, this will include where possible gathering views of service users. As and when these reviews are complete, any service-specific proposals will be presented to the respective boards in each organisation in addition to the Clinical Services Review Group.
This is to safeguard our acute hospital services.Roger Nettleship
“If there are any proposed changes to clinical pathways or services, where required the appropriate consultation processes will be undertaken, both internally and externally.
“I can confirm that we do carry out consultation processes on workforce matters from time to time and we have some of this work currently on going. Any current consultation is entirely separate from the on-going joint clinical service reviews and is in no way related to the Partnership Alliance”
Roger Nettleship, the campaign’s chairman, and retired unison health branch official, believes this is
He said: “We have formed the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign to safeguard the future of our acute hospital services. “The ‘alliance’ plans the removal of all acute services to Sunderland which will mean that Accident & Emergency will become ‘unviable’ and will be closed sooner or later.
“We will be left with essentially non-acute services with a walk in centre (of sorts) and everyone needing acute health care and will have to travel to Sunderland or Newcastle. The immediate threat is the downgrading of our award winning acute stroke unit and maternity services.”
Already a consultation, which was due to end last week, has been held at the Harton Lane site to shed up 27 jobs.
In April many members, who now form the new group, took part in a seven mile protest march between the two sites.
Mr Nettleship said: “The context of this plan is the whole direction that the NHS is being taken by government in a deliberate reduction of NHS funding both for the health service and the training of the nurses and doctors needed. The government is wrecking the NHS through fragmentation into purchasers and providers, cut backs and privatisation. We know that bringing people together irrespective of political opinion, into a campaign is how we can respond. What we stand for is that health care is a right!”
A campaign meeting will be taking place for on Monday at the Alberta Club in Railways Street, Jarrow, at 6.30pm.
How the Alliance will work
The two NHS trusts say they have forged a new alliance to ensure patients are given the best possible care.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust serve a total population of 430,000.
Both trusts say they understand the importance of a hospital in each area and providing a range of emergency and planned services, but argue there is an “urgent need to rebalance services” as it is no longer safe or sustainable to duplicate care.
The South of Tyne Healthcare Group will create a programme of reconfiguring services.
This will see Sunderland’s Trust build on specialist services, increasing its focus on emergency surgical and complex planned acute services.
South Tyneside, where the trust has been moving away from complex acute services, will lead on out-of-hospital rehabilitation, diagnostic and screening services, as well as community services.
Sunderland’s trust chairman John Anderson, and Neil Mundy, from the South Tyneside trust, said in a joint statement: “We are delighted to launch this alliance which builds on the increasingly close collaborative working arrangements for clinical services across Sunderland and South Tyneside.
This further joint working is essential and presents a unique opportunity to enhance healthcare for our patients and local communities.”