‘Bring back A&E’

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A COUNCILLOR is calling for all services to be returned to the University of Hartlepool ahead of a crunch meeting on the future of the site.

Durham County Council representative for Blackhall, Councillor Rob Crute, called for all services, including accident and emergency, to be returned to the Holdforth Road-based hospital.

Coun Crute’s demand came yesterday during a meeting of the county council’s health scrutiny committee and follows the return of cardiology, diagnostic urology, endoscopy and orthopaedics and spinal services to the hospital.

Coun Crute has previously appeared in the Hartlepool Mail, saying east Durham residents were not fully consulted about changes as part of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s momentum: pathways to healthcare project.

Today, he said: “I suggested that the trust had taken an inconsistent approach to the Momentum project and that the people I represent in the Blackhall ward were confused and angry that the trust appeared to be returning some services and not others – of their own choosing and without consultation.

“From talking to people in my area, I’m aware that they want the A&E department above all others to be returned to the University Hospital of Hartlepool and feel powerless to influence any decision.

“Personally I feel that the trust has marginalised the people of east Durham throughout the process and that despite my constant probing of the trust at health committee meetings they are entrenched in their position that Wynyard is the only option - and that there’s no plan B.

“The trust, as an unelected and unaccountable quango, has in my opinion no moral right to drain services out of our area against the wishes of the people and without due regard to demands of elected members like myself who remain answerable to the people.

“It’s a classic example of the tail wagging the dog.”

Coun Crute said at the meeting, it was agreed that the issues should be raised at the forthcoming meeting, on February 9, where trust bosses will present their ideas to Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum about what services could be enhanced and developed at the hospital in the lead-up to the new Wynyard site opening.

But he added: “I argued that if the pace of progress was unacceptable then the scrutiny committee at Durham County Council should take up the issue and directly challenge the trust to return all services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.”

An NHS trust spokeswoman said: “The momentum: pathways to healthcare programme is a joint programme between North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Hartlepool and NHS Stockton-on-Tees.

“Because North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust also serves the people of Easington a director of NHS County Durham and Darlington sat on the programme board and regular updates were given to the Durham health overview and scrutiny committee.

“The ideas about services will be discussed with the Hartlepool health overview and scrutiny forum at its meeting on February 9.

“We understand that the chair and officers of the Durham health scrutiny committee have been invited to attend this meeting.”