• Independent Reconfiguration Panel has advised that acute reconfiguration plans in Sunderland and South Tyneside were in “interests of local health services”
  • But the panel said more work was required on the long term proposals for paediatric emergency care
  • The Department of Health and Social Care said health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has accepted the IRP’s advice 

The health and social care secretary has backed NHS plans for a major reconfiguration of acute hospital services. 

But while the Independent Reconfiguration Panel said the clinical commissioning groups’ decisions were in the “interests of local health services”, it said further work was needed on long term plans for paediatrics.

South Tyneside and Sunderland CCGs approved plans in February to shift several hospital based services from South Tyneside District Hospital to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The plans focused on stroke, maternity and gynaecology, and paediatric hospital services and included providing a 14 hour a day, nurse led paediatric minor injuries and illnesses service at South Tyneside with a 24/7 paediatric emergency department in Sunderland.

However, due to the length of time it will take to implement the changes in paediatric care, the CCGs agreed to a transitional 8am-10pm paediatric emergency department at South Tyneside.

But South Tyneside and Sunderland Health Scrutiny Joint Committee referred the plans to the secretary of state in March, claiming the consultation had been inadequate and the proposals were not in the interests of local health service.

The IRP published its advice to the health and social care secretary on Friday, which concluded:

  • Consolidating all inpatient stroke services at Sunderland Royal Hospital was in the ”interests of local health services”;
  • Consolidation of all obstetrics, inpatient gynaecology and specialist care for babies at Sunderland Royal Hospital with a free standing midwife led unit at South Tyneside Hospital was in the interests of local health services; but
  • More work was required on long term proposals for paediatric emergency care.

It said: “Further work is required on long term options for paediatric emergency care as part of considering the future of the whole urgent and emergency care system for the area.

”In the meantime, consolidation of emergency paediatric care overnight at Sunderland Royal Hospital will mitigate the current risks to quality and continuity of care.”

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said health and social care secretary Matt Hancock had accepted the IRP’s advice.

It added: “The secretary of state has accepted the IRP’s advice and now expects the local NHS to continue engaging with local people, clinicians and health organisations and work with stakeholders to implement the recommendations.”

South Tyneside CCG accountable officer Dr David Hambleton said the IRP review had been ”extremely valuable”.

He added: “We are looking forward to considering the details of the IRP’s advice and gaining the views of our local councils and elected members in how we can respond to the secretary of state for health and social care’s request to report back on how we are implementing the IRP advice.”

Leaders at CHSFT and STFT agreed to merge into one organisation in May, but have been working as a partnership under the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group since 2016.

The region’s NHS leaders last month published a case for change document around the second phase of hospital reconfiguration.

The plans will focus on:

  • Emergency and acute care, including accident and emergency and ambulatory care;
  • Emergency surgery and critical care, including trauma and orthopaedics and intensive care; and
  • Planned surgery, including cardiology, respiratory, gastrointestinal and general surgery.