Decision on A&E under fire

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A COUNCILLOR claims the decision to close the University Hospital of Hartlepool’s A&E department is “flawed” as the views of east Durham residents were ignored in the consultation process.

Coun Robin Todd, chairman of Durham County Council’s adults, wellbeing and health scrutiny committee, will meet his Hartlepool Borough Council counterpart, Coun Steven Akers-Belcher, to pass on the health concerns of residents of the former Easington district.

The claim that views from east Durham have been ignored are being strenuously denied by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Durham County councillor for Blackhall, Rob Crute, who has given Coun Todd a list of points to raise with Coun Akers-Belcher, has called for the decision to close the accident and emergency department on August 2 to be reversed to ensure patient safety.

Coun Crute said: “I have persistently raised concerns at the adults, health and well-being scrutiny committee that members in east Durham were being bypassed throughout the consultation process which focused solely on the health scrutiny committee at Hartlepool Borough Council.

“Members of the public in east Durham consider themselves excluded.

“It is essential everyone affected has an input into the proposals. The potential risk to life is clear and the consultation process has been seriously weakened by the exclusion of a sizeable proportion of service users and their elected representatives in east Durham. If the process is flawed, the decision is discredited.”

Coun Crute said the closure will lead to “a significant deterioration in service for the people of Hartlepool and east Durham”.

He claimed the decision was the latest move to close the hospital “by stealth”, disregarding the views of 30,000 petitioners.

Coun Crute said it appears “irrational” to move essential services to another hospital which is difficult to access, especially taking into account high deprivation and low car ownership in east Durham.

Coun Todd, who represents Shotton on Durham County Council, said: “We are on the edge of the area for services into Hartlepool and tend to be neglected or not given the same opportunity to be involved as the people in the immediate area.”

A hospital trust spokeswoman said: “The people of County Durham were included in the initial momentum: pathways to healthcare programme consultation and the health overview and scrutiny committee have been kept fully informed and involved throughout the process.

“Far from risking lives the changes are designed to save lives and give people a better chance of recovery by ensuring people go or are taken to the right place first time for the care they need.

“This is not a move to close the University Hospital of Hartlepool by stealth.

“The trust is committed to having two hospitals until the new one is built in 2016.

“However some services will be brought together or move out into the community in the lead-up to this happening.”

The spokeswoman added east Durham residents are urged to make use of the East Durham hospital link bus.

A meeting with Coun Akers-Belcher is scheduled for later this month.