Councillors vote to take hospital concerns in South Tyneside and Sunderland to the Government

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Plans for a shake-up of maternity, children’s and stroke care in Sunderland and South Tyneside will be referred to the government.

Councillors agreed to formally notify the Department of Health and Social Care today (Monday) (April 30) after giving health bosses a final chance to address their concerns.

This included the safety of sick children needing urgent out of hours care, transport for pregnant women and the ability of Sunderland Royal Hospital to cope with an increase in patients.

“We, as a committee, want safe and viable options,” said south Tyneside councillor Pat Hay.

“You [the CCGs] refer to consultations with staff, which to me beggars belief.

“We’ve been contacted by senior clinicians, nursing staff and midwives [with concerns] and  don’t at all get what you’re saying.”

Members of the South Tyneside and Sunderland Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) have been grilling the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside since last year over its Path to Excellence scheme.

The panel had agreed its response to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the issue at a meeting on April 10, but gave health chiefs the opportunity to reply before sending it.

In a letter addressed to councillors Robert Dix and Norma Wright, the co-chairmen of the committee, the CCGs said they disagreed with complaints that the health reforms would ‘not be in the interests of the Health Service in South Tyneside and Sunderland’ or that its consultation on the changes had been inadequate.

Speaking to the JHOSC at South Shields Town Hall today, Matt Brown, South Tyneside CCG’s director of operations, also attempted to address concerns over some evidence received by councillors.

“I think other than stroke care I can’t think of a single piece of health care where there’s consensus among clinicians,” He said.

He added: “We all want the best possible services, but unfortunately the options that have been put forward, in terms of being viable, don’t consider options where we could bring acute services into South Tyneside.

“We’ve sought, where we could, to keep things local and I do understand the concern.

“People want to have the best service they possibly can locally and we’ve tried to do that.”

But committee members we unconvinced and voted to formally notify the government of its concerns.

Coun Dix said: “The scrutiny committee has followed this procedure to the letter.

“We’ve gone the extra mile to have every possible meeting that we could.

“A lot of people wanted us to refer this to the secretary of state six months ago.

“We always took legal advice and followed that to the letter.”

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service