Published on: 22 July 2019

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is gearing up for changes to children’s emergency care and maternity services at South Tyneside District Hospital, which will come into effect next month.

From Monday 5 August 2019, the children’s emergency department at South Tyneside District Hospital will close every night at 10pm and reopen every morning at 8am.  Overnight emergency care for children up to the age of 16 will be provided from the Children’s Emergency Department at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Children’s emergency care will still be available every day from 8am until 10pm at South Tyneside District Hospital and there are no changes to adult emergency care services which will continue to operate 24/7. 

The new model of children’s emergency care means that children from South Tyneside who need emergency hospital treatment during the night will now have equal access to specialist consultant-led emergency paediatric care 24/7. Ongoing and severe staffing pressures on the service at South Tyneside District Hospital over many years have meant it has not always been possible to consistently provide specialist senior paediatric cover 24/7.

The changes to children’s emergency care will take place alongside the opening of a new midwifery-led birthing centre at South Tyneside District Hospital from 9am on Monday 5 August.

The centre will offer more choice on where to give birth for local women across South Tyneside and Sunderland.  Women who have a low-risk pregnancy, which is problem free will now have the option of:

  • Giving birth at home
  • Giving birth at the new midwifery-led birthing centre at South Tyneside District Hospital
  • Giving birth under midwifery-led care at Sunderland Royal Hospital, which is within the consultant-led maternity unit
  • Giving birth at another maternity unit of their choice in the region.

Women who have a high risk pregnancy; for example if they are expecting twins, if their baby is in the breach position, or if they have experience complications in this or a previous pregnancy, will be advised to give birth in the Trust’s consultant-led unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital. This unit is rated amongst the best in the NHS according to the latest Care Quality Commission maternity survey and the new model will mean that there is increased Consultant presence in the delivery unit which has been shown to improve care.

The majority of all antenatal and postnatal care will continue to be provided locally, just as it is now.

All women’s healthcare (gynaecology) will be delivered as it is now other than for women requiring an overnight hospital stay, which is a very small number.

A widespread public awareness and information campaign has been underway to ensure that local people are aware of the changes taking place from Monday 5 August. This has included targeted information for schools and parents of young children across the borough and information shared with pregnant women through community midwifery teams.

These vital changes complete phase one of the Path to Excellence programme, which included maternity, women’s healthcare (gynaecology), emergency children’s care and acute stroke services and follows an extensive public consultation process by South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups in 2017. Emergency hospital stroke care was temporarily centralised at Sunderland Royal Hospital in December 2016 and the embedded changes have resulted in significant improvements in care for patients who have had a stroke.

Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “These important changes come into effect within the next few weeks and we want to make sure that people are aware of the changes and what they need to do.

“A widespread information campaign is underway and I would like to thank our staff, particularly in South Tyneside, who have been fantastic in helping us prepare to introduce these new ways of working. 

“Our prime concern is always the safety of people in our care and by pooling the significant experience and expertise of our clinical and nursing teams, I have no doubt that these changes will greatly improve the resilience of our service for the long term and secure these vital services in South Tyneside and Sunderland for many years to come.”

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is working closely with all health and care partners to ensure a smooth transition to the new model of children’s emergency care over the summer.