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Masthead Healthcare - Governance and Risk

Campaign group in legal action over changes to local hospital services

Campaigners in the North East have applied for a judicial review of a decision by two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to approve the removal of certain services from a local hospital.

The South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust held a consultation into proposed changes to three key services at South Tyneside Hospital.

The three services included in the public consultation, which closed in October 2017, were: urgent and emergency paediatrics, stroke services and maternity and women’s healthcare.

A joint decision was then taken in February this year by the NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG to approve the proposals put forward by the two NHS Trusts.

These proposals included removal of a 24-hour paediatric emergency department in South Tyneside and its replacement with a paediatric minor injury and illness facility. The provision of a 24-hour paediatric emergency department would be relocated to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Under the plans all acute stroke services would also be transferred to Sunderland Royal Hospital permanently.

In relation to maternity services, meanwhile, a free-standing midwifery-led unit would be developed at South Tyneside but all consultant-led and Special Care Baby Unit services would be relocated to Sunderland.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell is acting for the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group on the legal action over the decision.

Helen Smith, a public law specialist at the firm’s Newcastle office, said: “This is obviously a very important issue and one which affects thousands of people’s access to much needed, potentially life-saving local NHS hospital services. This is why it is crucial that any decision made in respect of those services, is made correctly and lawfully.

“The legal challenge raises questions around the decisions taken by the CCGs because of a potentially flawed consultation process which breached the principles of procedural fairness and decisions made on the basis of potential flaws in the transport analysis. Our clients believe the proposals to transfer the NHS services to Sunderland were based on a flawed assessment of the impact on patients and the criteria to assess the cost of this was also flawed.”

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