Public Law Experts at Irwin Mitchell instructed to bring a major legal challenge
Specialist lawyers instructed by a local campaign group have issued the application for judicial review against NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG as they continue the fight to save South Tyneside Hospital.
The Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group has sought the help of Yogi Amin and Helen Smith, Public Law specialists Irwin Mitchell, to challenge the legality of the decision taken by NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG.
The same legal team has successfully helped other campaign groups across the country to save public services such as respite centres from closure and is also working with a group to save Huddersfield A&E in Yorkshire.
Yogi Amin, a partner and Head of Public law and Human Rights at Irwin Mitchell, said:
Expert Opinion“Following our instruction by the South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group, we believe there are grounds for a judicial review of the decision taken by NHS managers at South Tyneside CCG and NHS Sunderland CCG on 21 February, and have issued proceeding at court.” Yogi Amin - Partner
Following a review by the South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, a public consultation was held into changes of three key services at South Tyneside Hospital. The consultation closed on 15 October 2017.
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.
The three services included in the public consultation were: urgent and emergency paediatrics, stroke services and maternity and women’s healthcare.
Prior to the decision being taken, the specialist public lawyers at Irwin Mitchell wrote to the NHS Trusts and CCG’s involved, as well as South Tyneside Council, to outline the serious concerns held by the Campaign Group.
Within the letter, the law firm stated concerns that ‘the consultation that closed in October was not a fair consultation’, and that any decision taken by the CCGs would be based on a flawed consultation.
Helen Smith, a Public Law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, added:
Expert Opinion“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.” Helen Smith - Associate Solicitor
Roger Nettleship, a spokesperson for the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group, said: “Our stand is to safeguard the future of South Tyneside Hospital and its acute and emergency services. Families are very concerned about their vital NHS children and women’s health hospital services.
“It is disappointing that after being urged to reconsider their actions, NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG have shown no sign of being willing to do so. The actions taken by Irwin Mitchell show we are standing up to these decisions and we continue to encourage the CCGs to change their minds.
“We believe that the proposed changes will be a potential disaster for the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland.
“This is because access to these acute NHS services will come under pressure by the closure of the services in South Tyneside. Under the current plans many vulnerable people will have to travel many miles, often during emergencies, to access specialist hospital care or to see loved ones in hospital.
“The aim of this plan is likely to leave people in South Tyneside with essentially a rehabilitation hospital, and everyone needing acute health care will have to travel to Sunderland or Newcastle.”
South Tyneside has overall levels of deprivation significantly higher than the England average, with life expectancy lower than the national average and levels of health and underlying risk factors among some of the worse in the country.
Levels of smoking, drinking and obesity leading to cancer and heart disease are among the highest causes of death while South Tyneside has a significantly higher proportion of children in low income families compared to the national average.
These factors put together increase the vulnerability of those in the region to ill-health.
At present both urgent and emergency paediatric services are offered at South Tyneside and Sunderland. Both options given in public consultation propose the removal of a 24 hour paediatric emergency department in South Tyneside.
The CCGs propose is to replace this with a nurse-led paediatric minor injury and illness facilities (open 8am – 10pm) at South Tyneside. The provision of a 24 hours emergency paediatric emergency department would relocate to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Until recently, a full range of stroke services including emergency treatment and specialist stroke nurse practitioners were offered in both South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Acute stroke services have temporarily been relocated to Sunderland Royal Hospital. The CCGs’ proposal is to transfer all acute stroke services to Sunderland Royal Hospital permanently; resulting in the permanent closure of the 20 stroke beds at South Tyneside.
At present South Tyneside residents can access maternity and woman’s healthcare services at South Tyneside Hospital including emergency and major planned gynaecological surgery.
Both sites also provide Special Care Baby Units and have consultant-led and midwifery-led delivery facilities which can accommodate both low and high risk births across both sites. The CCGs’ decision proposes to develop a free-standing midwifery-led unit at South Tyneside but to relocate all consultant-led and SCBU services to Sunderland.
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