Saturday 14th October 2017
South Shields saw hundreds of people from South Tyneside and Sunderland take to the streets against the downgrading of acute services at South Tyneside District Hospital. The day started with a vibrant march from Haven Point Ocean Road to South Shields marketplace for the rally.
We thank everyone who took part, with special thanks to all our speakers and other people who contributed to it's success. The march reflected the appeal of the campaign to people of all ages, views, and different walks of life, including large numbers of hospital staff coming together to take a stand in defence of our hospital services and to assert that this is our NHS and that we have a right to access these vital acute services at our district hospital.
This is the second march and rally organised by SSTHC, the previous one just under a year ago was a similar success. However, at that time the Sunderland CHS Executive Hospital team had yet to “temporarily” close the hospital acute stroke ward, and whilst declaring that it was “no longer safe and sustainable for either organisation to duplicate the provision of services in each location” they had yet to announce the downgrading of the hospital's children's 24/7 A&E, the loss of consultant-led maternity services, the loss of the special care baby unit and the recommendation of the loss of all hospital stroke services. The downgrading of these services was announced in July 2017 for a consultation that finished on October 15th 2017.
We understand that a final decision on these options (consultation phase-1) can be expected early in 2018. We also understand they intend to launch a new consultation on the review of all other acute services including critical care and our A&E. We haven't finished yet. We must keep up the fight for our paediatric, maternity, SCBU and stroke services. There are many things to do, and we need to get ready to challenge the next phase in downgrading our hospital.
It is our hospital, our workplace and our NHS. We can win, so join with us!
Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign
I would like to give a very warm welcome to you all from the SSTHC. We have now reached the end of the first consultation after months of fighting to save our vital consultant led children’s A&E, consultant led maternity, SCBU, and hospital stroke services.
Firstly, I would like to thank all of those in the South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, including the MPs who have made such an important contribution to this fight, since we were formed last year. This is now, a truly broad based campaign with people and staff from all levels that have contributed to this fight to save our hospital. It is you that have been involved that have guided this campaign. Both our Chair and I have made our mission to make sure that the large planning meetings attended by 30-40 people every two weeks is where the agenda is set and the decisions taken doing our best to unite people from all walks of life and of differing views and perspectives to make their main priority the fight to save our hospital services. This is something you as a campaign have taken to heart and this is the secret of our success so far.
During the period we encouraged people to raise their concerns about the downgrading of their health services at the consultation meetings organised by the CCG. We have organised two massive SSTHC public meetings in South Shields and Jarrow chaired by our MPs and we have started to organise effectively in Sunderland. In this way we have started to take the discussion on the fight for the right to our local health services right into the heart of our communities and into our hospital with our trade union colleagues there.
This week we produced a 15 page Briefing and Response which we finalised after so much involvement from you all but particularly the clinical staff who were ignored and cut out of the review and options. What we have is a document highlighting the just stand of the campaign, which has informed and helped others to see the wood for the trees in a consultation which has been worse than Teresa Mays strong and stable election campaign.
Now nearly everyone is recognising that most of these options will make our NHS in South Tyneside and Sunderland Less safe and less sustainable and we have drawn this line in the sand that we will never accept such options that have been decided on behind closed doors without clinical involvement and without our involvement and without the investment necessary to meet all the health needs.
The downgrading of these services, the loss of 24/7 children’s A&E, the loss of consultant led maternity, the loss of SCBU and all stroke services will have a massive impact on the availability of quality accessible services in South Tyneside and cause a massive crisis in reduction of the quality of Sunderland services, yet it will not produce any significant financial savings and the financial deficits that the government has created will get far worse even more quickly.
They say they will save at the most 2 million yet they want to cut the budget of both hospitals by 35 million this year alone. How will Sunderland cope how will South Tyneside cope.
In other words the value our health services contribute to the local populations and its economy far out strips the amounts of funding that will be saved by closing them. As was said by one of the councillors The NHS needs to “deliver the right outcomes to local people”.
The right outcomes can only be delivered by listening to our staff and by listening to the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland. What happens now is that we understand they will take a final decision on these options in early 2018. Whilst we also understand that they intend to launch a new consultation on the review of all our other acute services including critical care and our A&E in February 2018.
As Roger said we haven’t finished yet we keep fighting for our paediatrics services, maternity services, Special Care Baby Unit and stroke services there are many things to do and we also need to get ready to take on what they bring on next.
This is our hospital! Our workplace! and our NHS!. We can and will win join with us to save our hospital and NHS.
Staff Side Chair
Unison Branch Secretary
South Tyneside District Hospital
...Thank you, thank you so much for turning out today. This is absolutely brilliant and I’m going to say a personal thank you to all of the staff, who worked with us, with this campaign inside the hospital under real, real pressure... Can I also say, when we said, staff hadn’t been involved, we know that managers and senior clinicians round the table actually sat down and put those plans together - the nurses, the senior clinicians and teams that actually you go to, that you go and speak to on a regular basis, had no indication, no development of those plans, and that’s what we were arguing about.
That’s the fight we had to have. I’m very, very pleased to say management have listened and what we want them to do is to make sure that the implementation of whatever option comes forward, that our staff on the ground, who are the people that you go to, have the implementation details and give some credence to the plans that need to go forward.
I would also like to say a big thank you to everyone who’s participated in the consultations; they haven’t been very easy. Staff were also criticised for actually taking part in some of those consultations - I think what the consultations brought was that we don’t just work for South Tyneside, we live for South Tyneside, we live in South Tyneside and we want South Tyneside Hospital to remain for South Tyneside people. If you look at how they’ve developed their plans - let me ask you this: if you’re running in to A and E with a baby in your arms, who are you going to run to? Are you going to run to the manager with the suit on? Or are you going to run to the nurse with the uniform? I know who I’m going to.
...There are options being put forward from all of the staff, maternity, from stroke, from paediatrics and [gynaecology] - all of them. They’ve all had some sort of input. They want those plans to be developed with the work force and not every one else.
...As much as we’ve had a battle over the last few months, it isn’t over. We’ve got a massive hurdle ahead. The plans for three phases going forward, is what we were supposed to be doing. Management have announced that they are not going to have a third phase. All of what was going to go in the third phase, will now come into the second phase and that is the second phase, that’s the next hurdle, is the next battle we’re going to have. And I think (that) the staff of South Tyneside in the first phase have shown the way.
I would like to also say those staff who are not yet affected, they are the ones that need to learn from what we’ve done, pick up the gauntlet now and I’m sure the colleagues who’ve been fighting for this first phase going forward will help, encourage, support anyone who has to go through this battle now.
I’ve also got to mention Sunderland. ...They are living in a situation where the fight seems quite prominent within South Tyneside. Unfortunately Sunderland needs to come on board a little quicker because let’s face it, if it’s going to take a year [or two] to get some of these plans up and running, ... - I don’t know about you but it just seems yesterday I put my Christmas tree away - I’m getting it out in a couple of weeks time. So these years roll on. We need to be able to fight both sides of this argument, the pressure Sunderland will have will be immense.
If you think about the amount of children that have gone through our Emergency [paediatric] A and E, if they themselves have to go through to Sunderland, then I’m sorry, but Sunderland are going to have to queue like the rest of us.
...What worries me, is the health of our staff. If you think that if these proposals go forward and the door has to be shut at 8 o'clock, 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock. Any time that that door shuts there will be staff on the other side of that door, still working to finish off their job, to make sure that their patients are cared for and transferred to Sunderland. What’s it going to be like for those staff who are listening to the mother knocking on the door asking to come in and they have to say sorry you have to go to an adult A and E next door. Or maternity when the mother has been deemed to have ...a natural birth as far as their concerned, very low risk and then it becomes a problem and they need to call an ambulance. Only to be told, there’s an emergency somewhere else, and that ambulance isn’t on the way just yet, or they give an average of when it will be there.
...I wouldn’t like to have to pick the phone up to anybody and get an ambulance nowadays. They’re not meeting the targets - .hey are looking at the restructure of that A and E systems and that may not help in our circumstances.
The transport surveys that were done ...an inch thick document that told us absolutely nothing and I don’t know where he is, I don’t know where Jim is, but he had an A4 sheet of paper, he gave them more detail in that A4 sheet of paper than a company that must have cost them thousands to produce.
So from our point of view, we’ve got a long way to go. I want the support of the staff within the workplace, that they’re encouraged, really encouraged, by the support the public are giving them. We just need more. We’ve got a hundred and fifty thousand people in South Tyneside - this is a fraction of the people we have spoken to. ...Every single one of you here, have got a relative, a friend, somebody - Facebook - anywhere - tell them, there are plans to change services within South Tyneside and you must use your voice.
Emma Lewell-Buck MP
Afternoon everyone. Thank you so much for turning up to today’s March and Rally. And thank you to the South Tyneside Hospital Campaign for all of their sterling work. Last year I stood on this very spot and told you I was concerned about the future of our hospital. I said that our hospital was at risk of losing vital services. Yet at that time I and others were accused of scaremongering. Now the consultation is about to close and I can say without any pleasure that we were right.
By now most of you will know that the so-called 'Path to Excellence' as it stands will result in our hospital losing a number of vital services: Stroke Services - Gone. Special Care Baby Unit - Gone. Consultant Lead Maternity Services - Gone. Over-Night Gynaecology - Gone. 24 hour Paediatrics cut down to 12 hours.
I warned that the alliance between South Tyneside Hospital and Sunderland Hospital would become a merger, but in reality we now know that wasn’t true because in reality it is actually a massive take-over, and all this for an estimated saving of two million pounds that will see people in South Tyneside who aren’t well enough to get the two buses to Sunderland Hospital having to pay around forty pounds for a return journey for a taxi.
Now - the CCG tell us that 96% of our residents live within 30 minutes of Sunderland Hospital. I can only conclude that they employed Lewis Hamilton to do those time checks - because it is very clear that there is nothing safe and nothing sustainable about these plans.
Now many of you know that I have repeatedly expressed my concerns regarding due process and transparency - there’s something very murky going on when the Clinical Commissioning Group are saying that staff in our hospital have been involved in formulating these proposals before you, yet multitudes of our hard-working staff are coming to me, clinicians, and saying that they have been actively blocked out of this process from day one.
I was pleased that at Labour Party’s Conference we reaffirmed our opposition to the Sustainability and Transformation Plans that are driving these cuts. I am proud that with a Labour Government we would immediately halt these cuts to our NHS. And I am also delighted that John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn have signed a petition to save our hospital.
Many of you will know that I have repeatedly asked the council to refer the consultation to the Secretary of State for Health. To mine and many of my constituents’ dismay this has been denied. But I do have faith that our South Tyneside Councillors will do the right thing and if they continue to refuse to refer to the Secretary of State to halt this process, I hope they will employ one of the many options that councils up and down the country are, such as refusal to sign the plans overall, or seeking judicial review. It is within the council’s gift to do this. Because friends, right now, with a weakened government, a diminished Prime Minister, we are going to be able to win this fight if enough people keep coming out in opposition.
And remember this is only Phase One of a massive programme of change for our hospital - more is to come, including our Accident and Emergency Services. The Tories want to shut our NHS down for once and for all. These plans always have been predicated on cuts and it is happening right across England. I vowed last year that I would continue the fight to save our hospital - all of us owe it to continue that fight - for the people who work in our NHS and for the people of South Tyneside now, for future generations - let’s never give up this fight.
Stephen Hepburn MP
Thanks Roger and can I thank you Gemma for all the work you’ve done for bringing about this campaign and working so hard to keep it going and keeping it live.
It’s a boost of adrenalin today to come along and see so many people willing to come out in South Tyneside to defend the services that are theirs. It’s great to see everybody and we’ll carry on this fight no matter what.
It’s next year when we actually commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS, the foundation, the creation of the NHS which the Labour Party founded on the dream that a dustbin man would get the same treatment as a duke, but not pay no more than the duke for that service.
And we want to see the service enhanced, but when the Tories turn round to us in parliament and say that the cuts have got to be made in the likes of South Tyneside and Sunderland, they say 'we can’t afford it, we don’t have a magic-money tree'. We tell them where to get the money - Corbyn tells them, McDonnell tells them - and what we tell them (is) get them from the same magic-money tree that you give the top 1% richest people in the country that tax cuts have made them billions, get it from the same magic-money tree where the Tories got the billions to give to the top 5% companies in the country, some of the richest companies in the world and give them billions, get it from the magic-money tree where the Tories are getting billions in the cuts to the top 2% wealthiest estates in the country through cuts in Inheritance Tax.
And yes, get it from the magic-money tree when you give the DUP a bung to save your necks to be able to further your plans to privatise the National Health Service. Because the Tories hate the National Health Service because it shows Socialism works and they don’t like it. That’s why they want rid of it and that’s why we are going to fight for it. Keep up the fight. We are the many they are the few. It’s our NHS - Tell them to keep their grubby hands off it!
Thanks Roger. Thanks very much to everybody who came here today. I’m specifically here, not to support the NHS - I don’t want to support the NHS. I want to fight for it. (So, I’m a bit warm, I could do with taking my coat off).
Okay, right. I’m here to fight for the NHS, because I’m looking at the young children and the young people here in the audience. In my lifetime, which is not very long, I have had a hospital close in Hebburn, Palmers hospital in Jarrow closed, we’ve seen the loss of Ingham Infirmary; we now have one hospital.
The way that things are developing because of under-funding in the NHS over many years by all governments, no thought process has been there to establish the NHS permanently. It can be put on a business footing, but I’ll come to that in a moment. The young people deserve a local hospital because Labour policy is local services as local as possible and Sunderland is a canny way from Hebburn, Luke’s Lane, Jarrow, Primrose and you people in South Shields - a long, long way. Especially when you don’t have the money - I sometimes think that the people in power are so laid back in their own rich world, where they don’t have to think about where the next penny comes from, they forget that people out here are struggling. They forget it. So let’s remind them of it. And how can we remind them - how are we going to fight back?
Now, I’m just going to give a couple of examples about things that - where it’s impossible and things could never develop the way they have, but they have. You are small, but together Unity is Strength and we will win. A little lawyer in India set up a campaign to stop the richest empire in the world, to get his own country free. A little fellah called Ghandi. When he started off, he was told he was an idiot, he was a loony. And yet look, India got its Independence. The Berlin Wall. Who thought that would come down? Who brought it down - it wasn’t politicians, councillors and MPs, it was the people who brought the wall down. Lech Walesa, in Gdansk, in Poland, in the shipyards started a small campaign off called Solidarnosc, and Poland’s free now.
So let me tell you. You are disciples - everyone here’s disciples - and take this message back to the people in the power - we don’t want hospital services lost, you’re not going to have your services lost and if you do, there’ll be repercussions, because the people have the power. It’s called the Ballot Box.
You can sustain the NHS. John McDonnell the shadow chancellor was fortunate enough to speak last night, just little ideas which hopefully are able to go forward. One of the biggest expenses for the NHS is drugs - pay an absolute fortune after staff charges and wages. Next biggest cost is drugs. Why don’t we have a national drugs company? Instead of Smith-Kline-Beecham. Go to ASDA and you can get paracetamol for 50p - just along the counter is Smith-Kline-Beecham for £2.50. Billions of pounds being wasted on buying drugs - start our own national drugs company. And I’m not going to bore you any longer because you’ve been here a long time standing and there’s other people wish to speak.
But I’ll tell you something now, I’ve got some of my comrades and colleagues here today and we are fighting to save the services - it’s all about money. But what I said about Lech Walesa and Ghandi and the Berlin Wall and there are many other examples - the smallest campaign starts with the smallest step.
South Tyneside Transport Users Group
So I haven’t got a big fiery political speech, but this is really important because as lots of people have said, the biggest impact of moving these vital services out of our borough to Sunderland is the fact that people will not be able to get there. So this isn’t a 'Path to Excellence' as the consultation is titled, it’s a path to disaster. The path was set from the beginning, when the alliance was announced, that they said the direction would be that all the Acute Services would go to services would go to Sunderland and Rehabilitation would be here in South Shields.
So this immediately raised alarm bells for us in the Public Transport Users group because it means, as people have said, more people, when they’re patients, when you’re visiting family and friends, having to travel further and that means it will cost all of us more. It will take more time, particularly as we don’t have adequate transport links, we don’t have a direct Metro link to Sunderland - we don’t have publicly controlled regulated bus services yet - so we weren’t surprised when this consultation was launched and we found the plan was to move all three of these vital health services out of our borough altogether.
So as you’ve heard the consultation’s been a sham. It’s based on fairytale journey times and routes, not real ones, they just looked online and they’ve not even taken into account people with a range of abilities, people with prams, with kids, getting between connections. The buses from South Shields don’t even go to Park Lane Interchange any more because of the charges so you have to walk a considerable distance to even get a bus out to the Royal Hospital.
So as a group we did ask to be part of the fields testing and we asked and we asked. That was in the listening period before they started this consultation and we wrote to the Joint Health and Scrutiny committee to tell them that we had been excluded, so only now are real field testing getting going with councils themselves having to do this and this means the public have been consulted on wrong data, absurdly unrealistic journey times, both car trips and public transport. So the consultation should be declared invalid and run again, this time with accurate figures.
And of course there’s nothing in there about assessing the cost that we will all have to pay, and I just want to say, a hospital service can only be useful if you can get there and having an excellent service - although I think it is clear we dispute that Sunderland will be able to be an excellent service, given all of us going there, that will inevitably increase waiting times and waiting lists - but even if it was excellent, then it’s no use if people can’t get there - for people who won’t be able to afford to get there on increased public transport costs, increased taxi costs and particularly through the night. They’re also saying that they will be able to reduce the impact of the travel, but out of a 225 page document only 2 pages were about reducing the impact, what could be done. And that really is mostly about giving people more information.
We know when the Jarrow Walk In Centre was closed, they said 'Oh don’t worry, we’ll give people the accurate information about travelling to South Tyneside Hospital' but still 2 years on, people go to Jarrow to Palmers Hospital expecting there to be a Walk In Centre there, so that is not going to work. If you’re a parent, as I am, with a child, in the middle of the night and you don’t know not to go to South Tyneside, you turn up there - then what happens?
So the only way that they’re suggesting they could reduce the impact, is to have new improved bus routes, but buses are run by, controlled by, private companies and they’ll only run a bus service if it is deemed to be sufficiently profitable and that’s why we no longer have the 35 direct from South Shields to Sunderland, it wasn’t making enough money.
So the councils have asked Nexus, works on our behalf, runs the Metro, to work with the bus companies ...if they can make any future changes to services that they can take into consideration. But that’s no guarantee, so the councils have asked Nexus to look at a new subsidised service, a secured service. But the NHS said, at the public consultation meeting that they don’t think they’re allowed to pay for that, but we dispute that - but if they are going to pay for it, then that costing should be in the consultation for us to see what it would mean in terms of the supposed savings, that it would increase their costs. And if they’re not going to pay, then it would be our local councils paying, so it would be all of us, local tax payers would be paying for the service. And even if such a subsidised service was brought in, it wouldn’t be free to use, it would still cost us the same as any other bus service at the moment.
So finally ambulances - now it has been mentioned by other speakers and perhaps you wouldn’t think of them as public transport, but they are the most important, vital public transport and the impact of these public services being moved to Sunderland will be severe, and yet the North East Ambulance Service hasn’t even given its response to these proposals we are being consulted on. How can consultation take place without knowing how the ambulance service would cope?
Keep Our NHS Public North East
I'm from Keep Our NHS Public North East. ...We are a group formed a number of years ago on Tyneside, and we're made up of members of the public and some doctors and nurses, but it's open to everyone, and we meet in the centre of Newcastle. We campaign on the following health issues:
Our group believes that there should be no cuts or cash driven closures of hospital services. We totally agree that services need to be reviewed, obviously there is always room for improvement in our health services, but we are against closures for financial reasons.
We also support a fair pay for all NHS staff. As we know there has been a pay freeze over many years and wages just simply haven't kept up with the cost of living. So this is obviously a national disgrace, and it says much about how the government regards the NHS workforce.
We also campaign hard for a fully funded and publicly owned and publicly provided NHS. Obviously there is massively reduced funding from the government for our health services. It's hard to think in terms of millions and billions of pounds, but please be assured that the funding that we have at the moment has been slashed by the central government like never before. We are also seeing private companies take over and run our health service bit by bit. So be need to ask ourselves, if our NHS a public service or is it there for private profit.
We need to ensure that the NHS is reinstated, and one thing that we can all do is make sure that wherever we come from in the North East that our MP from that area sign up to the NHS bill.
Do you want to know what I really like about the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign? There are many things that I like, but I have picked out the top 3.
It's an extremely well organised campaign. The campaign has it's finger on the pulse of health developments in this area. These health developments have been closely tracked by the campaign team. ...This campaign sticks with the facts and it sticks up for what is right.
It's grown from the grass roots. It's completely democratic and it involves the people of South Tyneside, and now also the people of Sunderland at each and every stage. It involves all the people and all the groups. Most importantly this campaign consults with health staff who work in our hospitals. There is a lot of secretary from the CCG and the health authorities but there is complete openness and honesty from the campaign.
It links in with what is happening nationally. I know that members of this campaign are committed to attending our KONP meetings in Newcastle, they're committed ...to attending all the national marches. They're committed to attending the 'Health Campaigns Together' meetings in London. So members of this campaign contribute here in South Tyneside, ...but they also contribute and keep up to date with the national picture.
Finally ...I would like add my sincere thanks to all the hard working staff at South Tyneside hospital and all the NHS departments in this borough. We do value your commitment and hard work. ...When our hospital services are ...criticized we know that the underlying issue is one of underfunding and lack of resources.
From KONP NE and all the other health campaigns in the North East we wish the South Tyneside Campaign all the very best. ...We need everyone's help here today ...[to] win together.