COUNCILLORS are being asked to support calls to write to the Secretary of State for Health expressing concerns over the decision to transfer all remaining emergency and critical care services out of Hartlepool.
Members have again raised fears over transport and residents being able to access health services after the governing bodies of the area’s two NHS clinical commissioning groups backed the plans earlier this week.
It means from next month North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust will close four emergency medical wards at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, with a total of 135 beds removed and 200 jobs affected.
Also, Hartlepool’s critical care unit which includes two intensive care beds and two high-dependency beds – are to be relocated to The University Hospital of North Tees’ 12-bed critical care unit, in Stockton.
Yesterday, Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee met and proposed recommendations, including writing to Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt and looking to work with other health Trusts’ in the area, to go before the full council tonight.
Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher proposed the recommendations. He had initially asked if it was possible to refer the decision to the Government.
But Peter Devlin, the council’s chief solicitor, said that would have to match certain criteria which he didn’t believe it did because there was strong clinical evidence for the change and he described the consultation as “full”.
It was still proposed to write a letter expressing the committee’s disappointment.
Health chiefs said the changes were necessary because of “significant” concerns and again stressed while the current service is safe, it is not sustainable due to rising national standards.
David Emerton, medical director for the Trust, said: “Patients will have consistently higher standard of care as a result of these changes.”
He added there would still be several services at the Holdforth Road site including outpatients, investigatory services, day and planned surgery and rehabilitation units and, while he said nothing can be guaranteed, he added: “There is no reason why these services can’t keep in Hartlepool.”
Coun Akers-Belcher added: “I would like to see and would welcome some very clear analysis on healthcare inequalities and how the changes are going to impact on people.”
A spokeswoman for Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG said there was a “robust” 12-week public consultation and that all aspects and opinions were considered before a decision was taken.
The spokeswoman added: “The governing bodies were clear that the decision was in the best interests of their local communities as this change will improve and sustain the quality and safety of services for local people.”
The full council will meet at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, at 7pm.