Sunday 13th January 2019

Where We Are & Going Into 2019

A
s we go into 2019 the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) would like to congratulate the people of South Tyneside, and staff and clinicians at the hospital who have - and are continuing - to oppose the downgrading of our vital acute health services at our District General Hospital.

So far, this fight to save our services has focused on the high performing and vital children's 24 hour A&E, one of the best full maternity services and Special Care Baby Units, and for the restoration of stroke rehabilitation services at the hospital. These services are being downgraded as part of government's plan for the NHS in England.

We noted that it was very significant that on Monday January 7th Theresa May revealed in her government's statement the long term transformation plans for the NHS - dressed up as "more funding". She had asked the NHS to draw up a long term plan, one that is "clinically led and locally supported" with an "absolute focus on cutting waste". Her statement shows that the focus of the NHS plan is not more funding for existing vital services but is more about ruthless cuts to existing NHS acute and community services with a "long term plan" of a digitalised NHS and bed-less emergency departments where people are expected to fend for themselves in their own homes. Our experience of fighting to save our hospital services against this so-called path to excellence shows that this is a path that certainly hasn't got "local support" as Theresa May claims, because people know it is jeopardising vital acute services that they need to have access to at their District Hospitals.

Over the last two years not only has SSTHC launched its petition (which at time of writing stands at over 40,000 signatures) against the direction of this plan, but the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland have held five significant demonstrations and three public meetings in South Tyneside. Last May the matter was referred to the Secretary of State by the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee because they challenged the validity of the consultation and said the plans were not in the best interests of the people of South Tyneside. This referral was (unsurprisingly) rejected by a government that is initiating these plans. Following that in December 2018, SSTHC took the case challenging the unlawful nature of the consultation to a High Court Judicial Review in Leeds funded by local people of South Tyneside and Sunderland. So far our legal challenge has been unsuccessful, but the government, Theresa May and NHS England cannot pretend that the public are behind the so-called path to excellence.

At this time SSTHC is considering its options to continue the fight to save our hospital services. When we receive the full judgement of the judicial review regarding phase-1 of the consultation, then we will consider it along with our legal team - we have not ruled out an appeal.

We are also considering what now needs to be done so that the people of South Tyneside can make their claim to decide the future of their local hospital services. In order to oppose further downgrading of services in phase-2 we have given our evidence to the South Tyneside and Sunderland CCG Listening Panel. We gave our views to them on criteria for evaluating our services. We will continue to provide further information on the progress of our campaign as the year unfolds.