Here are the answers to to some questions you might have about the Path to Excellence programme.
Q. Will either South Tyneside District Hospital or Sunderland Royal Hospital close?
We cannot emphasise strongly enough that South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital will continue to be here but we do need to think differently about how we arrange hospital services for the future. We must be realistic that the challenges facing the NHS will not go away. It is right that we look to transform services so we can protect them for many generations to come.
Q. Which areas of care will be looked at as part of Phase Two of the Path to Excellence?
Phase Two of the Path to Excellence programme will focus on the ‘working ideas’ for ‘surgery’ or ‘surgical services’. This this covers two main areas:
- Trauma and orthopaedics – This type of surgery is to do with bones, joints and muscles. Trauma is the word we use to describe emergency operations to fix badly broken bones or injuries. For example, a broken hip. Orthopaedics is the word we use to describe planned operations on bones joints or muscles. For example, a new hip or knee replacement.
- General surgery – This type of surgery covers many parts of the body. Patients with cancer will often undergo general surgery as part of their planned treatment. The main operations we do are on the stomach (tummy), colorectal (bowels) and surgery to fix hernias. We also provide a specialist bariatric surgery service to help people with obesity. Some common emergency operations include gallbladder removal or removing a swollen or painful appendix. Most of our general surgery is now ‘keyhole’ surgery, which means a shorter stay in hospital and a quicker return to normal activities.
Work is still ongoing to refine these ideas further.
We understand that people want to know right now exactly what services will be where in the future, so they have that certainty.
The process of transforming hospital care is complex and complicated, it is not linear.
We are working hard to ensure staff, stakeholders and patients are involved and to make it as easy as possible for people to understand the issues we face.
We do have to be mindful though that a public consultation is a legal process, and we absolutely do not want to pre-determine any future decision as that’s unlawful in consultation law.
We will always share as much information as we can, when we can.
Q. Why do services need to change?
The NHS is facing significant challenges in a number of areas which are not simple to solve and are all very closely interlinked with each other.
We have identified a number of issues relating to the pressure our workforce is currently put under, the need for quality improvement, future demand for services and the need to consider financial constraints.
We can only progress ideas that are realistic and are genuine proposals for change. This doesn’t
include keeping things as they are. We are open to ideas on how we can solve these problems –
please see this website for how to get involved here.
For further information on these issues please see our Updated Case for Change document here
Q. What are the benefits of organising surgery in this way?
By organising surgery in this way there are many benefits and it is a tried and tested model which
many other parts of the NHS have already done this with great success.
The main benefits are:
• less cancellations or delays to planned operations for patients
• helping to prevent and control infection
• improved patient journey for common injuries and conditions leading to better
• better use of our theatre resources
• creating services that attract and retain more staff and newly qualified staff.
COVID-19 is another reason why we need to move forward quickly. Some patients have already
had their operation in a different location to help us safely manage during the pandemic. We
need to proactively plan how we do this in future.
As the NHS recovers from COVID-19, we also need to reduce our waiting lists of people
who need planned operations. We do not want people to experience any further delays or
cancellations. The NHS has been given clear guidance to change and redesign services to help
Q. What about the other services in Phase Two?
Pressure on our Emergency Departments and medical wards has not gone away. The challenges
are bigger than ever. However, we need more time to debate and discuss the impact of
COVID-19. Frontline staff do not have time to do this right now. Further work will need to take
place once the COVID-19 pressures ease. This will be subject to the same rigorous process,
including public consultation, in future.
Many of our ambitions for planned care and outpatients are already becoming reality. COVID-19
has been a welcome catalyst for these positive changes. The benefits for patients and staff
(see page 5) are obvious. We are now providing more services locally than ever before. We will
always do this where this is safe to do so. This work will now continue as part of our normal
The Trust’s ambition for a new Integrated Diagnostic and Imaging Centre also has not gone
away. The aim is to carry out more tests and scans, as we know demand is ever increasing. This
will also be vital to help services recover from the pandemic and help reduce waiting lists. These
plans have also been on hold during the pandemic. The Trust will continue this work as part of
our routine planning/business and the ongoing need to increase diagnostic capacity.