Campaigners will be putting their best foot forward this weekend in a bid to ‘save’ hospital services in South Tyneside.
The Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) and South Tyneside Public Services Alliance are holding a march and rally on Saturday.
The groups believe they have to defend the retention of key services South Tyneside District Hospital and the NHS.
The march will form up at Haven Point clock Tower at 11.30am and participants will make their way to South Shields Market for a rally at 12.30pm.
Fears surrounding South Tyneside Hospital emerged earlier this year after an alliance formed between South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust (STFT) and City Hospitals Sunderland (CHS) - the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group.
Campaigners believe that any loss of acute services will be a disaster for the people of the borough and also for Sunderland whose access to acute services will also be put under pressure by any closure of acute services in South Tyneside.
Health chiefs say the alliance is in the best interest of patients.
Protestors believe the alliance plans to concentrate all acute services from South Tyneside to Sunderland, which, the group believes will make South Tyneside Hospital unsustainable – potentially downgrading its A&E to an ‘Urgent Care Centre’.
Roger Nettleship chairman of SSTHC said: “Access to health care is a right of all in a modern society, and we demand that it must be guaranteed. Our stand is that South Tyneside Hospital is the most important community service of all community health services in our borough and we aim to safeguard the future of South Tyneside Hospital and its acute and emergency services as part of saving the NHS for the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland.”
In September it was revealed the borough’s stroke unit would be temporarily moved over to the Royal.
Bosses say the move is to strengthen the service and to ensure the best possible patient outcomes. They say the stroke service in South Shields has been under pressure for about 18 months due to key senior staff vacancies.
Also earlier this month Trust chief Steve Williamson announced he was leaving. In September, the new alliance saw Mr Williamson, who was previously the chief executive of the borough’s Trust become deputy chief executive, while Ken Bremner, Sunderland’s top boss, was appointed as chief executive across both trusts.
He said lst night: “The NHS locally, regionally and nationally is facing unprecedented financial pressure and demand on services and we firmly believe that action to address this needs to be taken now.”