Gazette column - 15/2/18

THERE are two big events coming up on behalf of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign with an organised lunchtime meeting tomorrow at the hospital and a Laffalang comedy fundraiser at the Westovian Theatre, written by local writer Ed Waugh on the 15th and 16th June, with tickets costing £13 on sale at The Word in South Shields Market Place.

These events are important as the harm done to our local NHS hurts me as much as you.

We all rely on brilliant medical care and the damage inflicted is intolerable.

So I'll get straight to the point because we must stand up for what we value.

I'd love to see as many of you as possible at the lunchtime protest tomorrow (FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY) at the Harton Road entrance to South Tyneside District Hospital.

The hour-long demo from noon, organised by the brilliant Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, is a call to arms.

I know many people will be at work and others might find it difficult to get there in winter.

But everybody who has been to these meetings before will tell you it's worth it, with a great friendly atmosphere.

And you get a real lift when drivers beep support on their horns in cars, buses and lorries going past.

Running down major services at South Tyneside District Hospital is wrong and Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt won't stop until we halt him.

If he gets his way, reducing urgent and emergency services for children and young people from 24 hours care led by highly qualified consultants – top doctors – to a more basic 12 hours service, kids and teens will suffer.

I like Sunderland as a city but I, like you, want consultants in maternity services to remain here on South Tyneside. The unit's one of the best in the country and it's crazy what they're doing.

Our Special Care Baby Unit in South Tyneside could be shipped permanently to Sunderland.

Women’s services (gynaecology) covering inpatient surgery when ladies need to stay in hospital overnight could go to Sunderland.

Moving stroke services, specifically the serious acute care, off to Sunderland wouldn't be good.

I've seen these NHS shamsultations before, Hunt's bosses pretending to listen to the public then ignoring opposition and imposing cuts they intended to implement from the beginning. Just take the Jarrow Walk-in Centre for example.

It seems obvious to me what's set out in the so-called path to excellence isn't excellent for patients on South Tyneside or in Sunderland and for that matter the wider NHS.

And it was no surprise to me when they floated the proposed merger between South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. We could see this coming in 2016 when the two Trusts formed what they termed an alliance under a single executive team based in Sunderland though retaining separate directors and governors. We were assured at the time it wasn't a merger or a takeover. What a non-surprise it now is.

This feels more of a takeover than a merger, Sunderland coming out top and South Tyneside very much playing second fiddle.

Good luck to patients using Sunderland hospital. I want them to have the best. But I also want what's best for us and that is a thriving, excellent South Tyneside Hospital.

See you Friday. I know you'll be with us in spirit if not in person. We love the NHS. Let's save our services, taking back control.


Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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