Fears over hospital shake up plans and what they mean for Hartlepool

The University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton
The University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton
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Potential downgrading of local hospital services including accident and emergency have come under fire.

NHS organisations have published a draft version of controversial Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) for the Durham, Darlington, Tees, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby area.

The prospect of A&E closing at North Tees, meaning people from Hartlepool would need to travel to Sunderland or James Cook, is just not acceptable

Iain Wright MP

A proposed vision for the year 2020 includes a reorganisation of local hospitals and as it stands would see either Darlington Memorial Hospital or North Tees hospital, in Stockton, lose their A&E department.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said: “Reconfiguration of hospital services in Hartlepool has caused significant anxiety over the past 20 years and this is further unwelcome news.

“The prospect of A&E closing at North Tees, meaning people from Hartlepool would need to travel to Sunderland or James Cook, is just not acceptable.

“There should be concrete plans to return A&E services to Hartlepool, not transfer them even further away from the town.”

He called on the Government to act over the funding crisis in the NHS he said was forcing hospital trusts to make painful cuts.

The North East Empowerment and Diversity (NEED) group said it opposed any cuts to A&E and said the elderly and those without their own transport will suffer most.

A spokesman said: “Hartlepool hospital and its ward closures since losing its A&E should be used as a case study to those who are thinking about closing units, the increase in the level of isolation within the population of Hartlepool has never been so high and continues to increase.

“Also if you couple this with the Better Health Programme and its 700 standards you will see that once the accident and emergency unit is removed services such as stroke, neo natal, paediatrics, coronary care, maternity and many others will be removed and restructured to a ‘central specialist centre’ which we have been informed will be James Cook Hospital.”

Fighting 4 Hartlepool Hospital group held a rally last month to alert people to the STP footprints with the 999 Call for the NHS group.

Glen Hughes, deputy chair of the Fighting 4 Hartlepool Hospital then said: “We have a big challenge ahead of us as current services – especially for A&E – are inadequate but these proposals could make things even more dangerous if we are left with the only option of travelling to James Cook in Middlesbrough instead of North Tees for A&E provision.”

The Draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan 2016-21, and a summary version is available to download from all local NHS clinical commissioning group websites.

Plans aim to improve health services for patients

Local NHS commissioners say they will work with councils and other partners to deliver the new Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

They said they are in response to being asked by NHS England to come up with improvement plans for their areas, or footprint.

The NHS in Durham, Darlington, Tees, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby said the STP identifies four areas for improvement.

They are prevention of illness and increasing self-care, health and care in communities and neighbourhoods, quality of care in hospitals and using technology to improve diagnosis and treatment, and to make care more convenient.

Clinical lead for the STP, Dr Stewart Findlay said: “There are financial pressures on the NHS locally, but for clinicians, the important thing about this plan is that we provide an improved service for patients.

“The view of our clinical staff is that more care should be provided outside of hospital, in the community, or in a patient’s home where this is safe and effective, supported by GPs, NHS community services, and with the NHS working together with social care and the voluntary sector.

“For serious emergencies and life threatening situations patients should be treated where senior consultants and experienced teams of staff are available, 24/7, seeing high numbers of patients with similar problems. Where this already happens, patients have much better results, and our doctors believe this approach needs to be extended to other potentially life threatening situations.”