THE Mail today launches the ‘Bring Them Back’ campaign to restore key hospital services to Hartlepool.
With the backing of town MP Iain Wright and representatives of all of the political groups in Hartlepool, we are issuing a rallying call on the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to start bringing services back to our hospital in Holdforth Road.
We are calling on readers to sign our online petition here before it is passed onto the hospital trust, NHS England and the Department of Health in a bid to bring about changes.
It is being launched a week after bosses at the Trust admitted they were shelving plans to build a £300m hospital at Wynyard until after the General Election after being left frustrated by a series of delays and wranglings over how the facility would be funded.
And it coincides with the majority of services having been moved out of the University Hospital of Hartlepool to the trust’s other base in Stockton, there are now fears that if Wynyard never gets off the ground then town residents will be faced with the prospect of having North Tees as their local hospital.
It comes as NHS England published a detailed Five Year Forward View report on the future of the health service, which includes guidance on how services can be kept local rather than axing smaller hospitals.
The Trust has vowed to continue to press ahead with plans for Wynyard after next year’s election in the hope that Government changes will allow the project to move forward.
Now key figures in Hartlepool have put their political persuasions to one side and joined forces to call for the Trust to start bringing services back to the town.
Referring to the Five Year Forward View, Mr Wright said: “We need to sit down and discuss this Five Year Forward View with the Clinical Commissioning Group.
“It is a blueprint which the local community will buy into.
“It talks about bringing GP services into hospitals in deprived areas where there is a shortage of GPs. It makes everything smoother, it reduces the wait for patients throughout the system.
“It could have been written with Hartlepool in mind, and my job is to make sure it is put into practice.
“This is not just about hospitals. This is about the whole medical service, and what happened last week with Wynyard and this document being released gives us a chance to progress.
“For too long we have been kept dangling, waiting for decisions. Let us look forward and to grasp this opportunity to make Hartlepool a pilot area and at the cutting edge.”
Mr Wright has thrown his weight behind the campaign, and moved quickly to deny regular claims that he had failed to support the hospital in Hartlepool when services were starting to be moved back in 2011.
Mr Wright said: “I’d never do anything that would damage clinical safety.
“This is my hospital, my children were all born there. The notion that I wanted it to close is wrong.
“I never ever said it wouldn’t close. Things changed.
“I’ve got absolutely no influence in respect of decisions made by an opposition government.
“As I said, things change. There will always be changes of government.
“The idea of a hospital ever being built at Wynyard can finally be put to bed.
“It’s simply never going to happen. Let’s draw a line under it.”
He added: “I have written to Alan Foster, the chief executive of the health trust, asking him to restore services to Hartlepool hospital.
“I will continue to put pressure on for that to happen.
“I’ve never believed that a centralised hospital service could ever be at North Tees. The Trust now needs to move quickly – Wynyard is not going ahead and so services have to be moved back to Hartlepool.”