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Masthead Healthcare - Litigation

Justification for hospital cuts taken away by migrant visa changes, say claimants

Campaigners are to press ahead with a judicial review challenge to proposed cuts to NHS services at a local hospital in the North East, claiming that a change in government policy on migrant visas could affect the justification for the reconfiguration.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell – which is acting for the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group on its legal challenge to the decision by NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG to reconfigure Maternity, Womens Healthcare, Paediatric and Stroke services away from South Tyneside – said it had written to the High Court.

It claimed that as part of the defence of the proposed cuts, the CCGs referred to an inability to recruit sufficient NHS staff as part of the reasoning behind the proposed reconfiguration of service. These staffing pressures were said to have caused issues of sustainability and patient safety.

Irwin Mitchell highlighted an announcement by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid last month (15 June) that doctors and nurses would be taken out of the Tier 2 visa cap in order to meet the demand in the NHS. The cap for doctors and nurses had been previously introduced in 2011.

Yogi Amin, a partner at Irwin Mitchell advising on the claim with Helen Smith, said: “We believe the recent announcement by the Home Secretary is a fundamental and relevant change in respect of planning to deliver services at South Tyneside Hospital.

“When announcing this change, the Home Secretary made clear that the rational for this change was and is to provide a solution to staff shortages within the NHS, like those in South Tyneside.”

Roger Nettleship, a spokesperson for the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group, said: “We think that the solicitors are right to challenge the CCGs claim that they have an inability to recruit sufficient NHS staff. In the past the Trust Executives went out of their way to recruit doctors and nurses in Britain and abroad over decades, which has always been difficult for District General Hospitals.

“Now we see the opposite - no serious plans to recruit staff to vacancies and now vacancies are being used as an excuse to close services at South Tyneside District. This provides no encouragement to overworked and loyal staff who are maintaining vital services.”

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