Fresh fears have been raised that lives could be put at risk following the opening of a new emergency hospital.
Officials at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said the opening on Tuesday of the new £95m Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington went ‘smoothly’.
As part of the move, North Tyneside General Hospital will no longer deal with emergency care, providing a 24-hour walk-in service and after care for patients.
But concerns have been raised that it could put lives at risk, with patients now needing to go further before they are seen by emergency doctors – potentially going past the general hospital.
Resident Steve Ratcliffe said: “North Tyneside has a population of 201,000 yet the A&E department is being moved away.
“What reason is there that ambulances shouldn’t go to the nearest A&E if the patient is in serious trouble?
“I’m concerned that lives will be lost. One relative was saved because of the A&E department being so close and doctors could intervene immediately.
“This is a big risk just for an experiment.”
However, the hospital’s medical director David Evans dismissed any fears and said the facility would save lives.
He said: “The national directive of the NHS is that it is better to be taken by paramedic ambulance to a facility with everything you need rather than a local hospital.
“There are 32 major trauma centres in the UK and in the last two years we’ve seen a 30 per cent drop in deaths.
“This is moving that next stage down, dealing with seriously injured patients.”
He added: “The concept of general hospitals was first drawn up in 1959. The treatment we had and patients we had to deal with are completely different.”
Mr Evans added: “Our new model of care is about getting those patients who are seriously ill or injured to a place where the right experts will be there consistently, round the clock, ready to treat them.
“Our general hospitals will also continue to provide round the clock care at 24 hour walk-in services for the less serious conditions which often need urgent attention.
“We have invested heavily to make sure people know and understand about the changes taking place and where to go for help and will continue to share lots of information as our new ways of working become embedded over the coming weeks.”