A judge has dismissed a legal challenge over the overhaul of stroke, maternity and pediatric services at Hospitals in n Sunderland and South Tyneside.
The case, heard at the High Court in Leeds, had sought to reverse the changes by arguing that NHS bosses had carried out a flawed consultation.
It was claimed the public had not been provided with enough information on the plans, including why a ‘do nothing’ option had not been proposed.
This was dismissed by his Honour Judge Mark Raeside QC said: “Throughout this process the information provided makes it clear to me that there was sufficient information.
“My conclusion is this is not a case where it can be properly said information was not available to the public and the claims are rejected.”
The judicial review was brought by the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign group against the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Sunderland and South Tyneside.
The protestors had disputed what they called a ‘fundamentally unfair’ and ‘unlawful’ consultation process which led to a major shake-up of services.
*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
The group claimed the lack of a ‘do nothing’ option showed health bosses had been ‘completely fixed’ on forcing the changes through, regardless of public opinion.
A barrister acting for the protestors told the court on the opening day of the case: “What we have is a process by which that option of retaining services simply wasn’t put forward as an option because it was already rejected.”
The CCGs however had argued the public had not been asked to consider retaining the status quo because it was not a ‘viable option’ due to staffing and sustainability concerns.
Eleanor Grey QC, defending, said this position had been explained during the consultation and that there had been plenty of opportunities for views or alternative suggestions to be put forward.
She also claimed the ‘modest’ savings proposed by the overhaul demonstrated it had been driven by the need to improve care quality, not save cash.
After the hearing, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck tweeted: “Leaving court very disappointed in ruling.
“I will continue the fight for our hospital with every breath in my body.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service