HUNDREDS more signatures have been added to a petition set up to persuade health bosses to restore hospital services to Hartlepool.
The Mail launched the Bring Them Back campaign on Monday in an attempt to put pressure on North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust to bring services back to the hospital at Holdforth Road after plans for a new £300m facility at Wynyard were shelved.
Within 24 hours of the launch, more than 3,000 residents had added their names to the online petition, while there was a steady stream of readers at the Mail office in Wesley Square keen to show their support.
Town MP Iain Wright signed the petition at Westminster, while his counterpart Graeme Morris, MP for Easington, has also added his support.
Mr Wright said: “I’m delighted to hear there has been a fantastic early response, but that has not surprised me as it is clear the people of Hartlepool want services restored as soon as possible.”
Mr Morris added: “The number of signatures already on the petition demonstrates the level of public support and the trust has got to take note of that.
“I don’t want to go down the path of least resistance and simply transfer services to North Tees and gradually run down services at Hartlepool so it’s no longer viable.
“Ultimately, I think the trust needs to understand the strength of feeling and it mustn’t disregard the public’s views.”
Meanwhile Nikki Fourie, who runs the Diamond Cafe within Derwent Grange residential home on Hartlepool’s Central Estate, says residents have all been keen to show their support.
Nikki, who runs the business with partner Martin Dunbar, said: “The residents are fully behind the campaign to restore hospital services to Hartlepool.
“They have asked me to get some petitions for them to sign, they are all keen to add their names to it.
“Everyone is talking about this campaign, I’m not surprised at the response so far.”
Nikki, mum to Rowan, 13, 10-year-old Liam and Holly, two, added: “I live in hartlepool and so do my parents. They have disabilities, and it’s not convenient to be running back and forward to North Tees for appointments.
“Luckily we have a car, but how many people are having to fork out £12 for a single trip to Stockton?
“The sooner our hospital is back the way it was, the better.”
The launch of the campaign also coincided with NHS England publishing 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.
It also came a week after bosses at the Trust admitted it was 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.
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.
• To add your support to the campaign, sign our online petition here or call into the Mail reception in Wesley Square, Hartlepool, to add your name to the list.
The petition will eventually be passed onto the hospital trust, NHS England and the Department of Health in a bid to bring about changes.