Doctors accept case for change of hospital services

Dr. Boleslaw Posmyk.
Dr. Boleslaw Posmyk.
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Doctors that led the independent review accepted the clinical case for change.

The planned changes follow an independent review of services by the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) led by Dr Chris Clough from Kings College London and Durham-based Dr Mike Jones.

They met with stakeholders, doctors, nursers and patient representatives in January and concluded: “The clinical case for change is accepted.

“NCAT can support the move of the acute medical services and critical care services to University Hospital of North Tees (UHNT).”

Currently, intensive care and high dependency care is provided over the two sites and while North Tees is the major provider, the University Hospital of Hartlepool does admit acutely ill medical patients.

Patients suffering from a possible stroke are already taken to North Tees, while those with heart problems are taken straight to James Cook University Hospital.

The report said the Hartlepool site “is supported by anaesthetists with intensive care skills who are able to do a once daily ward round, but are not able to offer the full panoply of intensive care support such as haemofiltration and routine tracheostomy can only be performed on mornings when the consultant is there”.

It added it has been “difficult” to recruit and retain anaesthetists and medical staff to the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

The report, which praised staff, said: “In addition the nurses feel isolated within the unit and insecure about the level of care they are practicing.”

Doctors said the unit does run well and there are plenty of beds, but added: “The case for change here is predominantly clinically based, driven by the need to close the critical care unit at UHH which may potentially be unsafe, and secondly to provide modern fully supported acute medical care which certainly could not function without on-site critical care facilities.

“In the present situation patients may be left at UHH following their admission when it would have been better to transfer them in the first place to UNHT.”

It is planned to create a larger acute medical unit at North Tees.

The plans are against the backdrop of the Momentum: Pathways to healthcare programme, a key part of which is the new £300m hospital at Wynyard, to replace both hospitals.

Funding is not yet in place and it isn’t expected to open until 2017, but the CCG say they cannot wait until 2017 to make the changes.

Dr Boleslaw Posmyk, chair of Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, said: “We can’t see any other viable or safe option.”

Dr Posmyk said Hartlepool’s critical care unit is usually at 50 per cent occupancy.

He added the modifications to the Stockton site are likely to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, rather than millions.

Dr Paul Williams, of the NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, said: “This is about location, it is not a cost cutting exercise.”