Monday 15th August 2016

Public Meeting Calls to Build the Campaign so that Acute and Emergency Services Remain at South Tyneside Hospital.

Emma, Gemma and Roger on the Platform

MP Emma Lewell-Buck organised a meeting in South Shields on Monday August 15th with the support of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign and Unison's Public Service Alliance. Nearly 200 people including clinicians, staff from the hospital, people from South Tyneside and some residents of Sunderland attended the meeting, which was in the Brinkburn Community Centre in South Shields. The Meeting was characterised by the enthusiastic support to build the campaign so that acute and emergency services remain at South Tyneside Hospital.

Opening the meeting Emma Lewell-Buck started by saying that: “We all know that the Government is decimating our NHS. We all know about Jeremy Hunt's attack on the work force, the junior doctors and the nurses, but what many people don't know is about the immense pressures that they are putting on local hospitals right up and down the country.” She said: “They are reducing the workforce, increasing the role of the private sector and starving the NHS of the funding forcing areas to come up with plans of how they can re-configure their hospitals and their local health services. One part of that plan is the reduction in the north east of accident and emergency provision.” She continued that: “Clinical reviews have commenced on a number of clinical services based at our hospital which from downgrading, or delivered from elsewhere, will reduce the need for us to have an accident and Emergency in the current form.” She reported that she had spoken to staff, clinicians, and trade unions and that “all the signs were pointing to a downgrading of services for South Tyneside, inclusive of A&E provision to Sunderland.” She said that Sunderland are expanding these services “against a far more challenging financial situation than our hospital is in.” She said these moves: “Do not appear to be based on any evidence or strategic planning to meet the health needs of our borough. They are being rushed through at pace with scant regards for the health needs of our local population. There is a blatant lack of transparency and accountability. All minutes since the alliance and in spite of repeated requests have not been made available to the public and I have been given no clear blueprint of what it is that this hospital is actually trying to achieve.” She concluded that she knew that the people of South Tyneside: “Are not going to put up with this. Tonight is about sharing information and planning our next steps together.”

Unison area organiser and the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign organiser Gemma Taylor spoke next outlining the origins of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign coming out of the concern of local people and the Public Service alliance of local trade unions. She said that: “What gave rise to our concerns was that this alliance was formed without any public consultation and the announcement that the South Tyneside Foundation Trust would deliver more of the rehabilitation, screening and diagnostics and the City Hospitals Sunderland would deliver more of the acute and emergency services. We all know that if a hospital does not have acute services, it will make the A&E unviable.” She said the campaign is working very closely with our two local MPs to try and protect acute and emergency services. She spoke about the regular activities so far which includes entering into dialogue with the Trust even though we don't agree with the direction. She concluded by asking the floor to stand united with the campaign and to get involved.

Roger Nettleship Chair of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign was the final speaker from the platform. After speaking about the history of the campaign which had its origins in the campaign to Save Jarrow Walk-In centre he went on to speak about the context. He said that the government is orchestrating this downgrading of our hospital through its “5 year forward View”. He said: “What struck us about this is that it is a vicious austerity campaign to destroy as much as possible of the publicly provided and publicly funded NHS in 5 years and replace it as much as they can with a privately provided and funded health system using the US model of private health care. He said: “We have to stop this whole direction and dismantle much of the mechanisms put in place by this and previous governments such as the market in health between providers and commissioners and the way the NHS is deliberately underfunded.” He said this was in the aims of the campaign and: “that one vital question that is very important to ask is are there any public authorities nationally, or locally, accountable to the people that are standing up for the NHS. Instead what we have is this question being reduced to competing Trusts and chief Executives in the climate of Trusts being deliberately under resourced in funds and in medical staff where the government can force mergers, partnerships with the private sector and close and wreck our acute hospitals and emergency services. He said this is no way to run a health service. He said: “We formed the campaign to become a social movement in South Tyneside to defend our health service and become that public authority.” He said this was “bringing people together regardless of political opinion, party or organisation, or none, as well as our elected representatives.” He said this was behind the initial work with the petition and the cards to the MPs. He said that the “most important thing is that this is not our campaign but your campaign” and he called on people to join it and shape it with us.” He said: “We know not everyone can come to a two weekly meetings but it is important to act in an organised way and send a delegate from your group or organisations then everyone come to those activities they can get to. We know people in the hospital are taking a stand even many of the clinicians and governors are opposing this direction for our NHS and for our hospital.” He pointed out that: “Access to health care is a right of all in a modern society and we demand that it must be guaranteed and no hospital should be placed in deficit.” He concluded by saying: “Let us plan this campaign even better. So, they haven't seen anything yet. Lets plan for the biggest demonstration ST has ever seen and get everyone out.” and he called on people to take part in the campaign to plan the future of the campaign.

View of Participants

During the hour and half discussion that followed with a roving mike, speaker after speak gave dozens of contributions to the discussion on the vital importance of the campaign to save the acute and emergency services at the hospitals as well as speakers who spoke on how this would effect services in Sunderland and the need for a campaign there. South Tyneside District Hospital consultation surgeon Kamil Wynne told the meeting that most clinicians at the hospital oppose any possible moving of services to the Royal. He said: “The majority of us do not think that this has been thought out properly,”

The meeting concluded with Emma Lewell-Buck thanking everybody for coming along and thanking all of the people who made such powerful contributions. She said this was the start of the campaign, many unions and parties were on board and the message which is loud and clear is: “Hands off our hospital and don't ever underestimate the people in South Tyneside.”