Two weeks ago I held a public meeting along with Unison, GMB and the Public Services Alliance in South Tyneside to make people aware of the potential downgrading of acute and emergency services at South Tyneside Hospital and to discuss how we can take the campaign forward.
This Government is decimating our NHS. We all know about Jeremy Hunt’s attack on the workforce; junior doctors, nurses, but what many don’t know about is the immense pressures they have placed on local hospitals. Whilst reducing the workforce, increasing the role of the private sector and starving the NHS of funding, the Government have forced local areas to come up with plans of how they can reconfigure their hospitals and local health services. Part of that plan is a reduction in the North East of Accident and Emergency provision.
Earlier this year, our hospital formed an ‘alliance’ with Sunderland Hospital. At the time I objected to the lack of consultation and expressed my fears that this was indeed a precursor to merger. Since then it has been agreed that the Chief Executive of Sunderland is now going to be the Chief Executive of our hospital too and clinical reviews of acute services are taking place across the hospital. If acute services are downgraded or delivered from elsewhere, this will reduce the need for South Tyneside to have an A&E.
Our hospital like many others is facing challenges and I am keen for our Trust and its partners to explore how it can meet these challenges, but current developments at the hospital 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 regard for the health requirements of the local population.
There is a blatant lack of transparency and accountability; all minutes of meetings that would previously have been made public online have not been since the alliance, and despite repeated requests I have been given no clear blueprint or plan for what they hope to achieve. Furthermore I have received no solid assurances from the hospital that our A&E will be saved, only that the service is to be reviewed next year. I have spoken with clinicians, staff and governors, everything points to a downgrading of services from South Tyneside, inclusive of A&E provision to Sunderland.
Sunderland happens to be currently expanding its A&E despite being in a worse financial situation than South Tyneside (FT), and previously at the time of the ‘alliance’ a joint press release stated ‘South Tyneside FT has increasingly been moving away from providing complex acute services and it will in the future lead on out of hospital rehabilitation, and diagnostic and screening services’. I have called on the hospital for some transparency and accountability and I will be holding the Government to account making it clear that neither I nor the people of South Shields will stand for this.