|Public Law Experts at Irwin Mitchell instructed to bring a major legal challenge NHS managers’ decision to move Maternity, Womens Healthcare, Paediatric and Stroke services away from South Tyneside under challenge.
Lawyers acting for a local campaign group have been given the green light to pursue their legal challenge against NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG as they continue the fight to save South Tyneside Hospital.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell had previously written to NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG urging them to overturn the decision to move Maternity, Womens Healthcare, Paediatric and Stroke services away from South Tyneside, or potentially face a judicial review in the High Court.
Now, the High Court has confirmed that Irwin Mitchell, acting on behalf of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group, can proceed with its legal action after the two CCGs did not agree to reverse their decision.
Granting permission, His Honour Judge Saffman said he believed the grounds put forward by lawyers at Irwin Mitchell were ‘sufficiently arguable such as to justify the granting of permission.’
Yogi Amin, a partner and Head of Public law and Human Rights at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Following our instruction by the South Tyneside Hospital Campaign Group, we argued that there were grounds for a judicial review of the decision taken by NHS managers at South Tyneside CCG and NHS Sunderland CCG on 21 February.
“Unfortunately South Tyneside CCG and NHS Sunderland CCG have not shown a willingness to reconsider the decision, therefore we welcome the High Court’s decision to grant permission to pursue a judicial review. This is the next step in the legal case to save the local NHS Hospital services.”
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 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.
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.
“We believe that the proposed changes will be a potential disaster for the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland.
“We are happy that our legal challenge can continue after being granted permission to seek a judicial review of the proposed plans. It is disappointing that after being urged to reconsider its actions, NHS Sunderland CCG and NHS South Tyneside CCG have shown no sign of being willing to do so.”
No date has yet been set for the hearing, following the approval of the judicial review application.
Helen Smith, a Public Law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, added: “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.
“Our 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 that the criteria to assess the cost of this was also flawed.”