A health chief has said the NHS welcomes the view of a national panel which says it is in the interests of patients to move a series of services from South Tyneside to Sunderland.
Dr David Hambleton, accountable officer for NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has made the comments following the findings of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).
The panel's stance was published after the matter was referred to it by then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt when the South Tyneside and Sunderland Health Scrutiny Committee raised concerns about the proposals.
The panel replied, stating the consolidation of all inpatient stroke services at Sunderland Royal Hospital is in the interests of local health services.
It also said centralising of all obstetrics, inpatient gynaecology and special care for babies at Sunderland Royal Hospital, with a free-standing midwife-led unit at South Tyneside Hospita,l is also in the interests of local health services.
However, it said more work is required on long-term options for paediatric emergency care as part of considering the future of the whole urgent and emergency care system for the area.
In the meantime, it says the consolidation of emergency paediatric care overnight at Sunderland Royal Hospital - listed as Option 1 in the consultation papers - will mitigate the current risks to quality and continuity of care.
Dr Hambleton said: "It’s extremely valuable to have the process we’ve followed and decisions we’ve made around the future of hospital based stroke, maternity and urgent and emergency paediatric care reviewed by a team of experts at the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), who have found that changes to these vulnerable services are in the interest of local health services in South Tyneside and Sunderland.
"As always, we are grateful to all our hard working NHS staff locally, in particular to those who are working in these vulnerable services during an uncertain time.
"We are looking forward to considering the details of the IRP’s advice and gaining the views of our local councils and elected members in how we can respond to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s request to report back on how we are implementing the IRP advice.
"We will continue to work with staff, partners and other stakeholders, as we all have at heart the best interests of the local people and communities we serve."
The legal process and the Secretary of State’s advice gained from the IRP consider different matters and are separate processes.
The task for the IRP is to review the NHS process and decisions about the service changes and considers if they are in the interest of the local health services.
The judicial review legal challenge considers if a lawful consultation and decision-making process has been followed. We hope that this will be resolved as soon as possible so that our NHS staff can have certainty.
The CCG says the judicial review legal challenge considers if a lawful consultation and decision-making process has been followed and that it hopes it this will be resolved as soon as possible so that staff "can have certainty."
However, Councillor Dianne Snowdon, the joint chairman of the committee, which puts health issues under the spotlight for both borough and across Sunderland, has said questions remain over the proposals.
The plans have met with strong opposition in South Tyneside with support from South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
Coun Dianne Snowdon, a Sunderland City Council ward member for Washington Central, said: "Earlier this year, our committee, after gathering and hearing evidence, raised several concerns over the service changes that were being proposed.
"Concerns centred on making sure our communities do not suffer if these changes were to go ahead.
"Our concerns on how accident, emergency and maternity services, to ambulance capacity, workforce development and public transport capacity could be affected; were all referred to the Secretary of State.
"The Secretary of State directed that an Independent Review Panel (IRP) look at what was being proposed.
"While not blocking or stopping the proposed changes, the IRP has also raised and echoed many of our issues and is seeking guarantees how concerns must be addressed before changes begin.
"The IRP has asked for more details on how paediatric services would operate and, in line with what our two councils said, also asked for more details on ambulance capacity, how the changes affect staff and public transport provision.
"With a Judicial Review underway, and now the comments of the IRP, there are still many unanswered questions over these proposals.