CLOSING the A&E unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and transferring services elsewhere is going to cost more than £1m, health chiefs have revealed.
The accident and emergency department at the Holdforth Road site will be shut down on Tuesday, August 2, as recently reported by the Mail.
Patients in Hartlepool in need of emergency attention will be dealt with at the £20m One Life Hartlepool, in Park Road.
But we can now reveal that the changes will cost in excess of £1m.
NHS Hartlepool says it needs to invest resources to ensure services are safe while the changes are being made.
The £1m will be spent on:
l Improving the emergency assessment unit at Hartlepool hospital;
l Improving the A&E department at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton;
l Increasing the number of staff and ambulance journeys.
A&E is one of three round-the-clock health services in town that are being transferred to a newly-created urgent care centre at One Life Hartlepool.
It means that minor injuries previously dealt with by the A&E department, the Victoria Road walk-in centre and the out-of-hours medical service will all be based at the Park Road centre.
Ali Wilson, director of commissioning and system development for NHS Hartlepool, said: “Quality and safety are of paramount importance to NHS Hartlepool.
“We need to invest additional resources initially to ensure that high quality, safe services are maintained while the changes are being implemented.
“The additional money will be spent on improvements to the emergency assessment unit at Hartlepool hospital and the A&E department at North Tees hospital, increasing staff numbers and strengthening the skill base of staff transferring to the One Life Hartlepool urgent care centre.
“Resource will also be used to provide additional ambulance journeys, including those that will bring patients back to Hartlepool hospital to complete their recovery.”
The end to the long-running saga comes after the A&E department was declared unfit for purpose by an independent review by health professionals, academics and councillors from Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum back in March.
The changes are part of the Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme being led by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
Patients who dial 999 will be assessed by the ambulance service and taken to the right place.
Health chiefs say in most cases that will be the emergency assessment unit at the Holdforth Road-based hospital.
Steve Wallace, chairman of NHS Hartlepool, has hit back at rumours that North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is downgrading services at the hospital in a bid to save money and has moved to reassure residents.
Health bosses insist services are not moving out of Hartlepool, and are merely being provided in a different place.
Mr Wallace said: “Over the next few weeks NHS Hartlepool and the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust will be working hard to explain what the differences are – and that the new system will be easier not harder to understand.
“We won’t just drop them on people.”
A series of public meetings will be held over the coming weeks to raise awareness among people of what to do in an emergency.