Protest march planned over South Shields and Sunderland hospitals’ alliance

South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.
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Protesters are planning to take to the streets in protest at a planned alliance between two hospital trusts.

The event, which will be starting outside South Tyneside Hospital, in South Shields, at 11am on Sunday, will see people marching seven-and-a-half miles to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The protest is over a newly-formed alliance between City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.

Members of The Green Party in South Tyneside have organised the walk over fears the borough’s hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, will be downgraded, with key services moved to Wearside.

Health bosses say they’re disappointed the walk is being held.

Green Party activist Shirley Ford said: “We have very strong concerns that South Tyneside is going to be left with a ‘cottage hospital’ and all of the important services will be shipped out to Sunderland.

“The walk is quite long, seven-and-a-half miles, but this is to also show the distance people in the borough may well have to travel, when their local hospital is no longer able to provided the services they expect.”

Representatives from Unison’s South Tyneside Local Government Association and Public Service Alliance will be supporting the march.

Steve Williamson, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest and acknowledge that some people may have concerns, but it is disappointing that some have felt the need to organise such an event at this stage.

“We have been very open, honest and clear in our public communications, and in our discussions with both local councils.

“There are no plans to close A&E services at South Tyneside.”

The two NHS trusts say they have forged a new alliance to ensure patients are given the best possible care.

City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust serve a total population of 430,000.

Both trusts say they understand the importance of a hospital in each area and providing a range of emergency and planned services, but argue there is an “urgent need to rebalance services” as it is no longer safe or sustainable to duplicate care.

The South of Tyne Healthcare Group will create a programme of reconfiguring services.

This will see Sunderland’s Trust build on specialist services, increasing its focus on emergency surgical and complex planned acute services.

South Tyneside will lead on out-of-hospital rehabilitation, diagnostic and screening services, plus community services with both councils and primary care teams.