HEALTH bosses have insisted at-risk services at a Tyneside hospital are now "safe and secure" after a crunch meeting.
But as the Clinical Commissioning Groups said South Tyneside Hospital was safe campaigners said they are "absolutely devastated" with the decisions.
Representatives from Sunderland and South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Groups met yesterday to determine the future of three areas of hospital care: emergency paediatrics, stroke services and maternity and gynaecology.
They decided to close the inpatient stroke beds at South Tyneside District Hospital and to move key children's emergency and maternity services to Sunderland.
At a packed public meeting, health chiefs said the three areas under review are facing extreme staffing pressures and the changes mean they will "improve and ensure better care for patients".
Dr Matthew Walmsley, chairman of NHS South Tyneside CCG, said: "We've been very clear that the current situation cannot continue, and I know that these changes to these important local services are absolutely the right thing to do that will have a direct impact on people's experiences of care and the clinical outcomes they will have.
"With the decisions we have made, we will have saved more people's lives today than I have done on any other day in my medical career so far.
"There is no element of doubt and to be categorically clear, retaining the status quo and not making any changes is simply not an option for these services - and as local health care leaders we must act in the best interests of patients as our first duty of care to our patients is to do no harm.
"It is extremely likely that a failure to act now could compromise the safety of patients in our care and lead to unplanned closures of services across South Tyneside and Sunderland under crisis circumstances, as we have already seen with the stroke and our special care baby unit in South Tyneside in order to keep patients safe."
But campaigners said they were "devastated" and vowed to continue their fight.
On behalf of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign group, chairman Roger Nettleship said: "We feel the consultation has been a complete sham.
"Several months ago the CCG started a consultation on three predetermined options. Throughout there was never any sense they were listening to the clinical staff or the people of South Tyneside. "Ken Bremner said in the meeting that he told the CCG two years ago that no change was not an option, so in that consultation there was never any options that gave the people of South Tyneside anything other than worse access to hospital services."
Mr Nettleship said the group's solicitors have written to the CCG and that the campaign would continue. And campaign coordinator Gemma Taylor said: "We are absolutely devastated by the result but we're not shocked."
What it all means Stroke services All acute strokes will be directed to Sunderland Royal Hospital with the consolidation of all inpatient stroke care at Sunderland.
This has been running as a "temporary measure" since December 2016 and health bosses say it has shown improvements in patients accessing key diagnostics and treatment earlier. They said: "The rate of the use of clot busting drugs has doubled for South Tyneside residents, and the percentage of eligible patients thrombolysed within an hour has gone from 0% to 60%, meaning fewer people will die."
Maternity services Developing a free-standing midwifery-led unit at South Tyneside District Hospital for low risk births.
Retaining a consultant-led maternity unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital and continuing to provide alongside midwifery-led care for low risk births Gynaecology care requiring an overnight hospital stay will be carried out at Sunderland, and care for minor gynaecology conditions, including day case surgery and outpatients clinics, will continue at South Tyneside.
A single special care baby unit located in Sunderland.
Children's emergency services A nurse-led paediatric minor injury and illness facility at South Tyneside District Hospital - open 8am to 10pm A 24/7 paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal But the clinical commissioning groups said that it will take a period of time for this to be deliverable and approved 'option 1' for implementation in the short-term: A daytime paediatric emergency department at South Tyneside District Hospital and 24/7 paediatric emergency department at Sunderland Royal.