A leading consultant says patients who will face the journey to a specialist stroke unit in Sunderland will not be affected by the delay.
Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said change must happen during the first session in a consultation on plans, which could see more services run from Sunderland Royal Hospital.
It is essential that within four and a half hours, patients get the clot busting medication, a seven minute journey will not make a difference.Dr Shaz Wahid
Campaigners say South Tyneside District Hospital faces being “downgraded” and that the review of the stroke service, maternity and women’s services and children’s A&E is part of the Government’s plan to privatise the NHS.
They have also expressed concern Sunderland will struggle under the stress of increased demand.
But Dr Wahid told the meeting, when fears were raised about the risk to stroke patients’ health: “It is essential that within four and a half hours, patients get the clot busting medication, a seven minute journey will not make a difference.”
The first session, held today in Jarrow, was one of 11 to be held as part of the consultation.
It was told the NHS in the North East faces difficulties in recruiting staff to lead the services which have been put in the spotlight because consultants prefer to work as part of a bigger and busier team.
A “temporary” change has already been made to stroke services, which sees patients sent to Sunderland for initial care.
Ken Bremner, chief executive officer of South Tyneside and Sunderland City Hospital Trust, said it “did not believe it was able to improve the quality of the service” without changes being made and said the review would also help the service become accessible seven days a week.
Details of the consultation, further meetings and information on how to register views can be found via www.pathtoexcellence.org.uk.