Tees

North Tees Hospital neonatal unit downgrade rejected

North Tees Hospital Image copyright Google
Image caption It was recommended North Tees Hospital's neonatal unit be downgraded to "special care" only

Plans to close a newborn baby unit have been rejected by a health scrutiny committee representing councils.

The downgrading of neonatal services at North Tees Hospital in Stockton had been recommended by NHS England.

Babies would have been sent to neonatal intensive care units in Middlesbrough, Sunderland or Newcastle instead.

The North East Joint Health Scrutiny Committee chairman said he was "totally unconvinced" by the case for a special care-only service at North Tees.

Ray Martin Wells, who is also a Hartlepool councillor, said the committee made it clear any potential changes were going to be looked at "extremely carefully".

As part of a review of services for babies in the region a Royal College of Paediatrics report recommended concentrating resources in larger regional centres, saying they offered the best care from specialist staff.

Mr Martin Wells said the evidence was "less than convincing".

Health bosses have confirmed there would be "no major downgrading" of neonatal services at North Tees, Hartlepool Council said.

Image caption Kirsty Lowther said her premature babies would not have survived the journey to another hospital

Shaun and Kirsty Lowther, whose premature twins were cared for at North Tees, helped co-ordinate a petition against the plans, signed by more than 6,000 people.

Mrs Lowther said it would be "absolutely diabolical" if the neonatal unit closed.

"In our circumstances, if we'd had to travel with Ava and Noah, my twins, to James Cook [hospital] they wouldn't have survived the journey.

"So, to us, it's a matter of life and death."

It has been agreed the provision of services will be looked at as part of a wider review and consultation in autumn next year.

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