Save South Tyneside Hospital campaigners to take fight against ‘downgrading’ services to Parliament
Campaigners battling to safeguard hospital services in South Tyneside are taking their fight to Parliament this week.
A deputation of 17 people is travelling to Westminster on Wednesday to hand in a 44,000-signature petition against what they say is “the downgrading and privatisation of our hospital services”.
The Save South Tyneside Hospital group launched several years ago to oppose changes under the ‘Path to Excellence’ overhaul following the merger of South Tyneside and Sunderland’s NHS trusts.
Work on the Path to Excellence started in 2015, with the first phase covering stroke care, maternity and gynaecology services and acute paediatrics in Sunderland and South Tyneside.
Changes were implemented from 2019 and have since been credited with, among other things, improving treatment for stroke victims.
Public consultation on the second phase, focusing on surgery is expected to begin in the autumn, following delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Bosses at the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust say the scheme will “secure the future of local NHS services and to identify new and innovative ways of delivering high quality, joined-up, sustainable care that will benefit the population both now and in the future”.
But campaigners are angry at what they say amounts to a downgrading of hospital services at the South Shields site.
Roger Nettleship, chairman of the SSTHC, said “The petition was launched in 2016 over the concerns to downgrade our hospital through what was claimed as a ‘path to excellence’ which has already led to the loss of full maternity services, 24 hour children’s A&E and hospital stroke rehabilitation services.
“These closures of our vital services are going to continue in this Government driven programme of cuts and privatisation of our health services.
“As the petition shows these closures have not been agreed by the people of South Tyneside, or Sunderland, and they are not in our name.
“Health care is a right in a modern society and it is the people of South Tyneside who should decide on the services that our hospital provides and they need access to vital coronary care, ITU and other acute services and a trauma A&E here in our community.”
Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, said: “I am pleased to be welcoming the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign to Westminster and am honoured to be able to hand in their petition signed by tens of thousands of supporters.
“For a number of years now I have seen the hospital where I was born slowly stripped of vital services, one after another.
“Like many of my constituents and the wider community, I have supported and fought alongside the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign to oppose these cuts and the further downgrading of my local hospital.”
Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow, said: “Later this year there are plans to downgrade our children’s A&E from a consultant-led service alongside existing plans to downgrade our A&E, resulting in patients having to travel to Sunderland for all emergency surgery.
“This simply cannot be allowed to happen, and I will always stand up and fight for our NHS’s future.”
Dr Shahid Wahid, Executive Medical Director and Consultant Acute Physician at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are disappointed with the repeated misinformation being shared about our hospital services. To be clear, there are no plans to move all acute services away from South Tyneside District Hospital. To suggest this is simply untrue, damaging and very upsetting for our staff after one of the most challenging years in the history of the NHS.
“The changes already made to improve stroke, maternity and paediatric services have had fantastic feedback from patients. Our hospital in South Tyneside is going from strength to strength, is now rated good by the Care Quality Commission and will see continued investment for many years ahead.
“We have already shared our intention to improve surgical services and look forward to sharing more detailed plans later this year. This is about improving surgical services, making sure more people have access to timely operations and reducing the significant backlog of patients now waiting for treatment. It is not about downgrading anything, it is about making services better.”
Article originally appeared on the Chronicle Live.
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