Call to dispel 'myths' as Path to Excellence continues for South Tyneside and Sunderland hospitals

NHS chiefs have been urged to hit back at ‘myths’ over the future of care in South Tyneside.

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 31 July, 2019, 16:45
Sunderland and South Tyneside Hospitals

Hospital bosses in the borough and in Sunderland are preparing to implement a raft of changes to maternity and pediatric care as part of the first phase of the controversial Path to Excellence programme.

But after more than a year and a half of ‘pre-consultation’, patients and the public are still don’t know what to expect from the scheme’s second phase, covering areas such as surgery, scans and blood tests.

South Tyneside councillor Pat Hay said: “The questions I get asked is ‘what’s happening at South Tyneside Hospital?’

“I appreciate there’s a lot of Victorian buildings at South Tyneside Hospital and I’m sure there’s parts of Sunderland Royal Hospital that need upgrading too.

“But it concerns me where this money is coming from.

“I know we cannot get definitive answers today, but it is something we will need to have an open discussion about – there’s a lot of myths out there.”

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Coun Hay was speaking at a meeting of Sunderland and South Tyneside’s Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, which heard consultation on phase two, previously expected to have started this summer, is unlikely to begin before 2020.

In July 2019, hospital bosses revealed they had asked Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council to consider bankrolling the changes.

Talks are in early stages, but this could see the councils take advantage of their access to cheap government credit.

Fears have been raised for the future of South Tyneside Hospital as a result of the Path to Excellence reforms, but care chiefs have sought to downplay this, even previously suggesting it could become a centre for ‘routine surgical work’ in the area.

Matt Brown, director of operations at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) told the joint committee: “When I see some of the myths out there I find it perplexing that some don’t think you need to invest in the infrastructure at South Tyneside Hospital.

“We believe we need to invest in facilities at South Tyneside Hospital and I find it strange people would suggest it would be better not to do that.”