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Councillors ask Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to call in plans for maternity, stroke and emergency paediatric care services


Councillors are to ask Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to review plans which would see some maternity, gynaecology, stroke and paediatric emergency services transferred from South Tyneside to Sunderland.

Members of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for South Tyneside and Sunderland decided at a meeting on Friday to refer the proposals by South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group and Sunderland CCG to the Secretary of State.

The reasons given for the move are that members were not satisfied with the adequacy of content of the consultation and felt the proposals were not in the interests of the health service in the area.

The changes councillors are asking the Secretary of State to review are:

  • All inpatient stroke care will be concentrated at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
  • There will be a free-standing midwifery-led unit at South Tyneside District Hospital and medically-led obstetric unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital. Gynaecology care requiring an overnight hospital stay will be carried out at SRH, and care for minor gynaecology conditions, including day case surgery and outpatients clinics, will continue at STDH.
  • A nurse-led paediatric minor injury and illness facility at South Tyneside District Hospital – open 8am to 10pm – and 24/7 paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal will be developed. In the interim, the South Tyneside daytime paediatric emergency department service and future nurse-led paediatric minor injury and illness facility will be open from 8am to 10pm.

The decision to centralise hospital based stroke, maternity, gynaecology and paediatric services in Sunderland aims to tackle recruitment challenges, inability to hit clinical standards, difficulty meeting national guidelines and to reduce the bill for locum doctors.

The two CCGs had written to the JHOSC warning that referral to the Secretary of State could mean a delay of up to nine months, while the Independent Reconfiguration Panel carries out a review, which could result in a “crisis situation where the trusts are forced to make changes to guarantee patient safety”.

In a statement issued on behalf of both CCGs Dr David Hambleton, chief executive officer at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said “We are really disappointed that local politicians feel that they cannot support these important changes to vulnerable services.

“We’ve been very clear from the start that these changes have been about taking steps to protect services that are vulnerable because of a severe shortage of skilled medical staff.

“We are at a loss to understand why it is that councillors feel that delaying these changes do not present a real risk to patient safety. This referral to the secretary of state for health will increase the risk that the NHS has to change services in a crisis situation, which is not good for staff or patients in the same way we had to at Christmas over special care baby unit and maternity services.

“We are confident that our consultation process was open and transparent, and the decisions about each of the services done for the right reasons based on evidence and we know that staff in these services have said they would like to get on with the changes and end the uncertainty.

“We would have wished to have the opportunity to address any particular concerns that elected members have, again it’s really disappointing that we have not been afforded this opportunity in order to do everything we can in the best interest of patients we serve.”

Information on the full Path to Excellence proposals can be seen here.



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