Published on: 5 July 2019

Healthcare leaders in South Tyneside and Sunderland have confirmed a revised timeline for the transformation of local hospital services as part of Phase Two of the Path to Excellence programme*. 

After sharing a list of ‘working ideas’ in February 2019 for the future of emergency care and planned hospital care across South Tyneside and Sunderland, widespread involvement has taken place to openly encourage feedback from staff, stakeholders, patients and members of the public.

Over 12,000 views have been captured so far and this feedback will now be fully considered by the Trust’s clinical design teams - made up of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals - who are leading the development of ideas for the future of hospital services.

Formal public consultation led by South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) is now unlikely to start in late summer as originally anticipated and a revised timeline is currently being developed.  This is to ensure that all feedback is given proper consideration and to allow clinical design teams to shape the best possible models of hospital care for the future.

As part of the open engagement process, a clinical senate review has also taken place to provide an independent expert assessment of the three ‘working ideas’ so far.  Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals from the NHS in North West England were involved in the visit to South Tyneside and Sunderland in April with a final report due to be shared in the coming weeks.

Healthcare leaders are also taking the opportunity to engage with NHS partners and key stakeholders in County Durham to ensure that any proposals for the future of hospital services in South Tyneside and Sunderland also fully consider the natural flow of patients from Durham who already use services in Sunderland.

Since February 2019 and throughout engagement activity, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has been very open and clear that capital funding will be required to transform local hospital services in line with the three ‘working ideas’ and this must be identified prior to any formal public consultation taking place.

As well as pursuing all opportunities for national funding, the Trust has also held very early informal discussions with local authority partners about the potential to use Council borrowing powers to support the development of both local hospital sites.   

Whilst any formal business case is yet to be developed, both Councils are open to exploring opportunities for capital investment to help improve and develop facilities at both South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Ken Bremner, Chief Executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said:  “Our clinical teams have been working hard to develop ideas of how hospital services could work differently in the future but we know we will need capital investment to make any of them happen. 

“As an NHS Foundation Trust we have more flexibility to consider all options for funding and we’ve had some very early positive discussions with local authority colleagues about how they might be able to support us.

“Our ambition is to create truly outstanding future hospital services and by working in partnership we have the potential to deliver major investment into local services. If the NHS is unable to support this funding at present, then we have entered into some discussions with local authority colleagues about whether they may be in a position to locally support this investment using their own borrowing powers. This would potentially help us secure better value for money for the taxpayer through much cheaper interest rates whilst also keeping the South Tyneside and Sunderland pound in the local area to make the very best use of resources.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm and Leader of South Tyneside Council said:  “South Tyneside District Hospital is an important and much valued part of our local community.  It needs investment to provide a new modern state-of-the-art medical facility, if it is going to provide a wide-range of clinical services we expect of our local hospital. There is the potential that the Council could borrow money from the Treasury at a cheaper rate than from the banks, which is then repaid fully by the Trust at no cost to the Council.  Whilst discussions are at an early stage, this could potentially be a win win for the people of South Tyneside and a clear demonstration of the Trust’s long term commitment to the future for our hospital.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland Council said: “We’ve had some very early conversations with NHS leaders to explore potential options and look forward to progressing these further to see how we might be able to support the development of first class hospital and community based services for the people of Sunderland.”

NHS leaders have openly discussed the issue of capital funding with all stakeholders as part of the latest round of engagement activity including staff, elected members, local MPs and the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign.  As this work progresses more information will be shared in due course.

Ken Bremner added: “We are positive and optimistic about the bright and vibrant future for both of our hospitals. By investing in our facilities we want to make them the very best places to work, the very best places to receive top quality care and treatment and attract staff who want to come and live and work here. This is all about making things better for patients, and enhancing, not downgrading, the services we offer.”