A GOVERNMENT minister has promised to look into the planned closure of the nurseries at the University Hospitals of Hartlepool and North Tees.
The pledge by Education Minister Sam Gyimah to intervene in the row over the decision by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to close the Rainbow Nursery at the Hartlepool hospital, as well as the day nursery at North Tees follows a plea by Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.
During a Westminster Hall debate, Mr Cunningham asked Mr Gymiah: “Can he suggest any intervention he could make?
“Could his officials speak to the hospitals about advice or other help that the Government could provide that would save the specialist provision of those nurseries for disabled and other special needs children?
“That would enable parents to set their anxieties aside.”
Mr Gyimah replied: “I suggest that the hon. Gentleman write to me, and I will then respond accordingly and get my officials to look into the matter.”
The closure would see the loss of 178 childcare places, for the children of both medical staff and the wider community, as well as 54 jobs axed.
Mr Cunningham addressed North West Durham Labour MP Pat Glass, who secured the debate, on the future of nursery schools, saying: “She talked about closures, and we have learned on Teesside that the North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is closing two nurseries, at North Tees hospital and Hartlepool hospital.
“Will she join me in expressing shock at such a decision, which will lead to excellent provision going away and lots of jobs being lost?”
He also highlighted the nursery’s Ofsted report, which says: “All staff attend a wide range of training to develop their knowledge and skills”.
Mr Cunningham said: “So there is ongoing professional development in that hospital nursery setting.
“Does he [the minister] agree that that model should be rolled out elsewhere?
“Does he also share my opinion that those making the decisions on those nurseries might have benefited from the scrutiny and clinical examination that he would have given them had their decision come before our Committee?”
A social media campaign has been mounted to stop the closures going ahead.
Labour MP Mr Cunningham has also written to Trust chief executive Alan Foster asking for assurance that consultation will mean exactly that, and also asking what measures have been made to try to avoid closure, such as asking if parents have been asked whether they would be prepared to pay more for the facilities, or marketing the service to ensure maximum capacity.
Mr Cunningham said: “The closure plans appeared to be announced out of the blue and I am concerned about the loss of this provision described as good on both sites by Ofsted inspectors.
“The trust writes of a consultation, but it appears that the decision has already been taken without any prior discussions with staff or parents.
“I was therefore delighted that the Minister promised me, during the debate in Parliament, that he would examine what may be able to be done to save the nurseries.”