Anger greets A&E closure

Accident & Emergency
Accident & Emergency

COUNCILLORS have unanimously backed a motion opposing any more services being removed from the University Hospital of Hartlepool during a heated debate about the closure of A&E.

But hospital campaigners say the motion is too little too late after the emergency unit at the Holdforth Road site closed on Tuesday.

The majority of patients will now be treated at One Life Hartlepool, in Park Road.

Throughout the hour-long full council meeting there were outbursts from angry residents inside the council chamber. They accused councillors of not doing enough to stop the A&E department closing.

At one point, Labour group leader Councillor Chris Simmons, faced the 40-strong crowd and said: “We all have families in this town. Don’t you think that we want the best for them?”

It was also confirmed that an extraordinary meeting of the council will be held within six weeks to discuss the loss of hospital-based A&E services.

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher defended the role of the health scrutiny forum during the debate, which was sparked by a question from Liberal Democrat leader Arthur Preece, who wanted clarity on the forum’s role.

Coun Akers-Belcher, the forum chair, said they wrote to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley last September before withdrawing the letter in October in order for an independent review to be carried out by the North East Strategic Health Authority.

He said: “Although we did not get the desired outcome to keep the service, it afforded the opportunity for members to have their say.

“It meant we could ensure that the One Life centre had 24-hour cover and not just the proposed 8am to 10pm.”

Councillors also collectively called for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust board to include elected members.

The motion, which was put forward by Coun Simmons, said: “This council is absolutely opposed to any reduction in existing services at the University Hospital of Hospital site until the proposed new Hartlepool Hospital is fully implemented.”

It added that the health scrutiny forum would continue to “review, monitor and challenge” the foundation trust’s commitment to deliver services from the hospital site.

The motion also called for the forum to work with health officials to take part in a roadshow within communities across town so all residents can learn more about the changes to emergency services.

The changes are part of the Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme being led by the foundation trust.

Health chiefs have previously said that A&E services could not continue due to training requirements of junior doctors and health and safety reasons.

Trust chief executive Alan Foster said: “One of the recommendations of the independent review carried out by the North East Strategic Health Authority and Hartlepool Health Scrutiny Forum was to explain the steps along the way to the new hospital and we intend, working with those who commission services, to fully explain this to the public in an information programme expected to begin later this year.

“Fundamentally the plan will emphasise our commitment as a trust to having two hospitals offering a wide range of services until the new hospital opens, hopefully in 2016.”