South Shields campaigners face anxious wait in health services legal battle

Campaigners face an anxious wait before learning if they have triumphed in the latest round of a lengthy legal battle against health service changes.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 1:50 pm
Save South Tyneside Hospital supporters outside London's Court of Appeal.

Specialist lawyers on behalf of the group argued that the decision-making process over the transfer of services to Sunderland Royal Hospital was essentially pre-determined before a public consultation process in 2017.

South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) contested the appeal and insists the changes were about “doing what is right for our patients”.

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Judges will now consider their verdict before announcing it at a future date.

Speaking after attending the hearing, chairman Roger Nettleship said: "We would like to voice our appreciation to all the 18 people who took time out to attend our appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

“We also thank those hundreds of messages from well-wishers reflecting the concern we all have for the loss accesses to these services affecting women and children at South Tyneside District Hospital.”

“We would also like to thank the legal team for their hard work in presenting our appeal case.”The judgement of the three appeal court judges has been deferred and we await the outcome." Helen Smith, the specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, which is acting for the group, said: “A significant proportion of the local population of South Tyneside are very concerned about the implications of the changes to vital hospital services.

“They felt strongly that the plans should be reconsidered again.

“Our clients have fought tirelessly to ensure their voices could be heard on the matter and were pleased to be given the opportunity to do so at the Court of Appeal.

“We feel that strong legal arguments have been made as to why the decision made at the judicial review in December 2018 was incorrect. We now await the judgement.”

“They felt strongly that the plans should be reconsidered again.

“Our clients have fought tirelessly to ensure their voices could be heard on the matter and were pleased to be given the opportunity to do so at the Court of Appeal.

“We feel that strong legal arguments have been made as to why the decision made at the judicial review in December 2018 was incorrect. We now await the judgement.”

Even if the group wins its appeal, it is believed that services would remain as they currently are and that further legal challenges would have to succeed before services are returned to South Shields.

Matt Brown, director at NHS South Tyneside CCG, said on behalf of both CCGs: “These changes have always been about doing what is right for our patients and protecting vulnerable hospital services which are now in a much safer and sustainable place since we implemented all the changes at the start of August.

“It’s important that people realise this this appeal is not about the decisions we made to change services, it’s about how the judge came to his conclusions during the judicial review.

“We will of course defend the appeal, and while this legal process carries on, our focus remains on providing excellent care for patients by our hardworking fantastic clinical teams.”

The children’s A&E service at South Tyneside now closes daily from 10pm- 8am while a midwifery-led birthing unit has opened there.