High Court documents reveal why judge backed changes to South Tyneside and Sunderland hospital services

New High Court documents outline why a judge backed controversial changes to hospital services across South Tyneside and Sunderland.

By Gavin Ledwith
Monday, 29 July, 2019, 06:00
Save South Tyneside Hospital campaigners make their feelings known during their fight against CCG changes to services.

The Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign group had taken its opposition to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside’s plan to the High Court.

Yet Judge Raeside rejected accusations that the public consultation had been flawed and said at the end of the hearing that it was clear “there was sufficient information”.

With some of the changes set to be introduced within weeks, full details of his judgement have been released.

In his 49-page document, Judge Raeside concluded that the CCGs’ eventual decision was made “properly, fully and fairly” following a process that was “both transparent and carried out with integrity”.

An additional round of public consultation was also conducted by the CCGs with the judge stating: “It has to be recognised throughout this process that there was a constant interaction with the public to deal with concerns.”

Speaking on behalf of the CCGS, Matt Brown, director at South Tyneside CCG, said: “We are pleased that the written judgement is now available for people to read.

“It shows, very clearly, that the judge supported our decision for phase one of the Path to Excellence programme and found our robust public consultation in 2017, undertaken together with NHS Sunderland CCG, to be a fair and lawful process.

“While we understand people's natural concerns about changes to healthcare services, these changes have always been about doing what is right for our patients and protecting hospital services which are extremely vulnerable.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The contested proposals by the CCGs included:

*Moving acute stroke care from South Tyneside District Hospital to Sunderland Royal Hospital;

*Changes to management of maternity care, with a consultant-led unit in Sunderland and a midwife-led department in South Tyneside;

*An overhaul of paediatric care, leading to daytime emergency provision in South Tyneside and 24/7 provision in Sunderland.

Save South Tyneside Hospital claimed the lack of a “do nothing” option showed health bosses had been “completely fixed” on forcing the changes through.

The CCGs, however, say new independent data since the December hearing shows that the quality of stroke services has risen significantly with more patients now receiving timely care, delivered by specialists, in a dedicated stroke unit.

Mr Brown said: “The Path to Excellence programme is all about making sure we have the very best possible care and clinical outcomes so we can create future services which are amongst the very best in the NHS. As the stroke changes are proving, this is how we make things better for patients.

“Staff at both hospitals in South Tyneside and Sunderland have been working hard to prepare for the vital changes to maternity, gynaecology and emergency paediatric care from August 5 which are being made in the very best interests of patient care.”

The judge’s full document will shortly appear online at www.judiciary.uk/judgments.