Thursday 13th July 2017

Post-Launch Press Release

Campaign members marching in the Durham Miner's Gala.

Members of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign have been taking part in the consultation meetings organised by the South Tyneside CCG. We have been saying that not only will the closure of these services impact on the prompt and safe treatment of those in South Tyneside, they will also impact heavily on the people of Sunderland as the remaining acute children's A&E, consultant-led maternity, special care baby unit, and acute stroke will all be at Sunderland.

The Sunderland Royal has also been put in financial crisis by the government cuts and can hardly cope with the population it serves now from Durham to Seaham. Of course this is only the start of the process as all other acute services are being reviewed.

The Consultation Meeting on Wednesday 12th July at the Customs House

The meeting was broken up into tables with many CCG employees involved in giving their opinions, and it was not possible to hear what people had to say on other tables other than the Medical Director and the CCG Chief Operating Officer who hand-picked the questions to answer.

The Elephant in the room - dismissed by the speakers - was that this is driven by the largest ever cuts to our NHS hospitals, which has left both hospitals in a government created “deficit”. This year alone the government “cost improvement programme” will be £18 million for South Tyneside Foundation Trust and £13 million for City Hospitals Sunderland - some £35 million cut from both organisations! How will any health service or options be sustainable with these cuts?

In spite of this they kept telling us that the new options would mean safer and higher quality services than at present. Concerns that it was not safe or good for mothers to loose our special care baby unit (there were no options to keep it!) were brushed over. The suggestion that as South Tyneside and Sunderland are forming an alliance, they can satisfy the need for further clinical collaboration across both hospitals without moving children's A&E, maternity and stroke services was also dismissed. A question as to why the few health and clinical leaders who came up with these options were not available to be questioned, has not yet been answered. A concern that most of the clinicians and all of the nursing teams that provide our health services in South Tyneside were not involved in these clinical reviews was also not answered. How can this be a safe process on deciding the future of our health services in South Tyneside?

Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign supports the call that South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck gave for an independent investigation into the flawed review process in which clinicians have not been involved as claimed and that the process should be stopped until they have.
Wednesday 5th July 2017

Consultation Launch & Lobby

Campaign members holding a lobby immediately prior to the start of the 'Path To Excellence' consultation launch event.

Following on from our successful day prior to the consultation launch, the launch itself was another landmark day for the campaign. Starting with a radio interview at 7:10am, and then continuing throughout the day with various people including Emmma Lewell-Buck MP (South Shields) speaking on BBC radio (MP3), Look North, Tyne Tees and Made in Tyne & Wear TV - Often with the first news item being the report of our lobby!

The issues were also covered by local newspapers including The Chronicle, The Gazette, The Sunderland Echo and The Journal. On Thursday 6th of July, Stephen Hepburn MP (Jarrow) had an article in The Gazette: “Enough is Enough: Let's save the NHS”.

We would like to congratulate and thank all who took part in the wonderful vibrant lobby at the South Tyneside CCG Consultation Launch Event. We extend special thanks to both MPs for their vital support and publicity for the campaign, and we thank everyone for raising vital questions, and contributing comments during the event itself.

Some of the criticisms raised included:

  • The apparent lack of clinical involvement in devising the consultation options.
  • Inadequate public transport links between South Tyneside and Sunderland.
  • Patient safety where time to get to hospital is critical (such as in the case of a stroke).
  • Patient safety in those low-risk situations that can quickly become high-risk (such as a complication during child birth) where the clinician-led services will be removed leaving only nurse-led services unable to cope with serious medical complications.
  • The ability of an already overstretched ambulance service to cope with longer journeys from the furthest reaches of South Tyneside all the way to Sunderland.
  • Fear over job losses - although it was stated that the proposals are not predicated upon job losses, at the same time it was acknowledged that job security is not guaranteed.
  • Recent expansions at Sunderland Royal Hospital have been driven by Sunderland Hospital's struggle to cope with the needs of the population of Sunderland, it has not been expanded with a view to coping with increasing numbers of patients from outside of Sunderland.
  • Concerns over a predetermined outcome with no options to keep clinician-led services in South Tyneside.
  • Concerns over the long-term sustainability of the proposed service changes due to the significant pressure on both hospitals, and the direction of the underlying political force creating the pressure. Real improvements with a view to long-term sustainability must be part of plans to repair the health service as a whole, and must therefore include a discussion of the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
  • Moving services when staff are mobile and services are not. Why not share clinicians between hospitals so that they get the practice they need to maintain their specialist skills. This is a response to the assertion that there are not enough acute patients attending South Tyneside - which somewhat contradicts the assertion that an ageing population is presenting with increasing numbers of acute issues such as stroke.
  • An absurdly optimistic presentation of the consultation options as a “Path to Excellence”, rather than acknowledging that in absolute terms they are undertaking a reduction of local hospital services.
  • Failure to present the context in which the consultation is taking place - one of massive cuts to both South Tyneside and Sunderland Trusts. The political situation (including structural changes following the 2012 Health and Social Care Act - The NHS Abolition Act) have manoeuvred services into this position.
Well done to all - lets keep the pressure on!
Tuesday 4th July 2017

Pre-Launch Press Release

Campaign members holding a leaflet inviting the people of South Tyneside to attend our public meeting.

On July 5, the 69th birthday of the NHS, details will be released of a consultation that threatens to permanently close vital services at South Tyneside Hospital. Whilst health commissioners claim this is a “Path to Excellence”, it is driven by massive cuts to both Sunderland and South Tyneside Hospital budgets, and it has not had the involvement or even the support of most clinicians and staff.

This first phase of the consultation is most likely to lead to the loss of consultant-led children's A&E, consultant-led maternity services, the loss of hospital based acute and rehabilitation stroke services, which will mean the access of these services will be at Sunderland and other hospitals out of the area. In other words 150,000 people who live in South Tyneside (where 46% do not have access to a car) will have to travel to access these hospital services. Some 17,000 children attend the children's A&E every year. It is an area where over 5,000 children are living in poverty according to the official criteria. This will not be a “Path to Excellence” but a path to worse health outcomes in one of the poorest areas in the North East. These are top-down cut-backs to our hospital services driven by massive financial cuts, which will leave one of the hospitals unable to cope if these proposals go through. We are concerned about the way the review process has been carried out without the full involvement of clinicians who provide these services in both South Tyneside and Sunderland. In addition, the consultation process, which is being launched on Wednesday, is requesting that members of the public have to register on-line or by telephone to attend these events. We are aware that a vast number of people in the area do not have access to computers. There are also concerns regarding the times of the events, due to people being at work and also collecting children from school - especially for the launch in South Tyneside on Wednesday 5th July 2017 at 1pm till 3pm.

We call on the people of the area to sign our petition, which (at the time of writing) stands at 19,312, and support our campaign to save our hospital acute services and fight to safeguard the future of our NHS.


Images from the stall held on Saturday 1st of July.
We gathered over 1,000 signatures, and let the people know what's happening to their services, and about the public meeting organised to address this.