ONE of the country’s leading experts on childhood medicine has launched a scathing attack on plans to build a specialist emergency hospital in the North East.
In the £200m proposals, health chiefs want to transfer all serious emergency care cases from North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals to a new purpose-built centre near Moor Farm roundabout, Annitsford, Cramlington.
Serious emergency care, consultant-led maternity services and special care baby units will be removed from North Tyneside and Wansbeck to the acute care site as they need to be at the same premises.
But in an unprecedented attack Prof Sir Alan Craft, former president of Royal College of Paediatrics, said the proposals for the restructuring of children’s services in the region was concerning.
Prof Craft, who lives in Embleton, Northumberland, said it would be difficult to staff paediatric services at the new emergency hospital due to a shortage of doctors and nurses and that it would be better for the North East’s general hospitals to work collaboratively with the new Great North Children’s Hospital, in Newcastle.
Prof Craft, a consultant paediatrician based at the RVI, and his wife, Anne, children’s nurse and director of nursing and former health visitor for North Tyneside, sent a letter to The Journal outlining their views.
It says the proposals to “develop in-patient emergency services for children in Cramlington go against all current guidance and defies common sense”.
“One of us has spent the last 10 years involved at a national and international level in the reorganisation of paediatric services to make them fit for the 21st century, taking into account all of the pressures and drivers such as changing patterns of illness and workforce shortages.
“Almost universally, there is a move towards networks of care with larger regional hospitals working with their neighbours to provide the best possible care as close to home as possible.
“This means a concentration of precious and expensive in-patient resources for those who really need them, with satellite units across the region providing excellent emergency assessment and day care in partnership.”
The Crafts say the children’s hospital creates an opportunity to provide world class services for “all children north of the Tyne, and perhaps further south”.
Their letter adds: “The proposals from Northumbria fail to recognise this opportunity and, if the plans go ahead, our children will be condemned to second rate services for the foreseeable future.
“It seems strange that, over the past 15 years there has been the development of an internationally recognised novel system for the safe and effective care of newborn babies in Wansbeck in a willing and effective partnership with Newcastle, yet there seems to be resistance to work collaboratively for the benefits of older children. Children have no vote and should not be a political football. As adults they will not forgive us if we fail them.”
Dave Evans, medical director for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We provide high quality children’s services at our hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside.
“We are proposing to treat the children we currently care for in the new emergency care hospital. This will improve services for these children.
“The Great North Children’s Hospital is a new facility that will bring together services for children currently provided in other hospitals in Newcastle.
“Together, these two new hospitals will offer excellent services for children. It is essential that all parts of the NHS work together, constructively and collaboratively. NHS organisations have a duty to cooperate and we take this responsibility very seriously.
“There have been numerous discussions between Northumbria Healthcare, Newcastle Hospitals and NHS North of Tyne to ensure the services are compatible and deliver consistently high standards. Prof Craft has not been directly involved in any of these discussions so we are somewhat surprised and disappointed at his decision to make these assertions, which we refute.” The trust plans to build a £75m Specialist Emergency Care Hospital close to the A19, A189 and A1 on the Northumberland and North Tyneside border.
A further £125m will be spent upgrading North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals in the 10-year plan, while community hospitals in Berwick, Haltwhistle and Morpeth will also be improved.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said under the proposals, seriously ill patients would be taken straight to the new hospital to be seen by experts who specialise in their condition.
Page 3 - Prof Sir Alan Craft's letter to The Journal >>
Prof Sir Alan Craft's letter to The Journal
There has been recently a call for comments on the proposals by Northumbria Health Care Trust to develop hospital services in Northumberland and North Tyneside
We have responded as concerned citizens against a personal combined background of 70 years working in the NHS locally as well as a great deal of involvement in the organisation of paediatric services at national and international level
We welcome the proposals to strengthen emergency care for the population of the area and this is clearly a real opportunity to give children and young people what they need and deserve , the best possible care .
The present proposals to develop in patient emergency services for children in Cramlington goes against all current guidance and defies common sense .
One of us has spent the last 10 years involved at a national and international level in the reorganisation of paediatric services to make them fit for the 21st century taking into account all of the pressures and drivers such as changing patterns of illness and workforce shortages . Almost universally there is a move towards networks of care with larger regional hospitals working with their neighbours to provide the best possible care as close to home as possible. This means a concentration of precious and expensive in patient resources for those who really need them with satellite units across the region providing excellent emergency assessment and day care in partnership.
With the opening of the new Great North Children’s Hospital there is an enormous opportunity to provide world class services for all children north of the Tyne , and perhaps further south . The proposals from Northumbria fail to recognise this opportunity and if the plans go ahead our children will be condemned to second rate services for the foreseeable future.
It seems strange that over the past 15 years there has been the development of an internationally recognised novel system for the safe and effective care of newborn babies in Wansbeck in a willing and effective partnership with Newcastle yet there seems to be resistance to work collaboratively for the benefits of older children
Children have no vote and should not be a political football .It is the responsibility of society and those appointed or elected to lead us to ensure that our children get the best. As adults they will not forgive us if we fail them
We urge Northumbria to get into a meaningful dialogue with its neighbours and resolve whatever differences that are perceived to be preventing the development of a first class service for children
Professor Sir Alan Craft
Consultant Paediatrician North Tyneside 1978-86
Professor of Child Health Newcastle 1993-2007
President of Royal College of Paediatrics 2003-2006
Lady (Anne) Craft
Former health visitor North Tyneside
Children’s nurse and Director of Nursing (Matron)
Page 4 - Great North unit will be a first for North East >>
Great North unit will be a first for North East
THE Great North Children’s Hospital will bring together all children’s services under one roof.
Costing £100m, the 245-bed complex based at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary will be one of 14 children’s hospitals in the country.
With the emphasis on improving the patient experience as well as offering top-class treatment, it will have clown doctors, a 50-seat cinema and a rooftop penthouse for teenage cancer patients.
It will also include specialist cancer care, dialysis suites and accommodation for families.
When the new building opens for business next year, all children’s services will be available under one roof for the first time in the North East, providing everything a sick child might need in one central hub.
NHS North of Tyne promises careful evaluation
THE NHS North of Tyne said the "comprehensive" consultation on the proposals from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust had lasted three months.
"This has involved more than 100 meetings across Northumberland and North Tyneside to provide as many opportunities as possible for local people and interested parties to hear more about the proposals and to give their views," a spokesperson said. "The concerns raised by Sir Alan Craft have been made at public meetings by clinicians from Newcastle Hospitals, who have also raised similar concerns in ongoing meetings involving clinicians from both trusts and NHS North of Tyne.
"The consultation has now closed and as part of our evaluation we will be carefully considering all comments received.
"Throughout the consultation we have been working with an independent market research company, who will be providing an objective overview of the feedback. An independent chair has also been involved at the public meetings. A report on the outcome of the consultation will be discussed at a meeting of the NHS North of Tyne commissioning board on August 20.
"Before reaching a decision NHS North of Tyne, as commissioners of the service, will need to be reassured that any changes in services would not compromise the continued delivery of high quality and safe services, but would result in improvements and would also be affordable. This board meeting will be held in public."