A major public consultation to gather public and staff views around the different ways some aspects of hospital services could be arranged in South Tyneside and Sunderland is asking local community and voluntary organisations to help ensure their service users’ views are heard.

Called ‘The Path to Excellence’, the public consultation was launched on Wednesday 5 July and will run for 14 and a half weeks until Sunday 15 October. The Path to Excellence focuses on some areas of hospital care which are delivered at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital, including:

  • Stroke care services
  • Maternity (obstetrics) and women’s healthcare services (inpatient gynaecology)
  • Urgent and emergency paediatric services

Now the local NHS would like to work with South Tyneside and Sunderland third sector and interest groups who support people who may face barriers to taking part in this consultation, and in particular groups representing people in society who may be more impacted by any potential changes to ensure their voices are heard.

Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and Chair of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said it was really important to hear from all parts of local communities.

“The options being presented are ideas that could help solve some of the problems these services are facing and the public consultation period is the opportunity to share these proposals, for people to feedback their views, and to give alternative suggestions if they feel there are other valuable ideas to consider.”

Dr Ian Pattison, a local GP and Chair of NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We’ve already had a number of very helpful comments and suggestions on how these proposals might be improved upon and we would very much welcome further involvement with third sector organisations who work with people who might have a particular interest in these proposals, but might not easily be able to attend a public event or take part in a survey.

A free package of support is on offer for those groups wishing to take part an includes free training on running focus groups, focus group toolkit and guides and a small payment in return for a report from the group for the consultation activity.

The Path to Excellence programme is keen to hear from organisations with an interest in the protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010 that includes:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity.

Local Healthwatch in South Tyneside and Sunderland said they welcome the opportunity for the NHS and local communities to work hand in hand to make the changes work for all.

Alan Patchett, chair of Health Watch Sunderland said:

“It’s important that the NHS hears from groups of people who might be more impacted than others by these proposals so we would wish to see many diverse groups coming forward to take part in this activity.

Sue Taylor, chair of Health Watch South Tyneside said: “There is a package of support available which will help make it as easy as possible for organisations to take part. It’s also a good way that community and voluntary sector groups can ensure the people they work closely with have their voices heard.”

Interested groups can find out more on the Path to Excellence website and will need to return an expression of interest form to access the support package – www.pathtoexcellence.org.uk.

The Path to Excellence public consultation continues with additional public events being arranged for September and October, including a dedicated event to consider the issue of travel and transport which has been highlighted as being extremely important to members of the public.

The public consultation is being led by the commissioners of local health services – NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group – who are responsible for planning and buying healthcare services on behalf of patients.

Working in partnership with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, who formed a strategic alliance in March 2016 known as ‘South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group’, all four NHS organisations are committed to delivering the best possible NHS services for the future through the Path to Excellence programme.