A HEALTH boss says the latest delay will not result in any services being moved back to Hartlepool – and refused to rule out even more services being moved to North Tees.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chairman Alan Foster said: “We cannot bring services back to Hartlepool.
“We will try and keep as much there as we possibly can. But there will also be more services being moved to North Tees.
“We have to provide a good level of care between the two sites. That has always been the case. We need to keep all of the services going.”
While critics have voiced concerns about the way the trust has handled the whole Wynayrd situation, Mr Foster shifted blame by saying the process put in place to build a new hospital was “not fit for purpose”.
He added: “I blame the process, without a doubt. It is not fit for purpose.
“We have done everything that has been asked of us. We looked at PF (private finance) then PF2. We have been through all the reviews, but we find ourselves going round in circles between the Department of Health, the Treasury and Monitor, the regulator.
“We have been working on this scheme for six years, and in the last year to 18 months we have began to realise that there are a succession of hurdles being put in our way.
“We have taken a step back now, there is an election next May which could change things again if there is a change in Government.
“The only similar projects which have got through this full process are the ones which have had high-level political support.
“We have never had that.”
Mr Foster says the sum total of £6.8m has been poured into the plans for the new hospital, including plans, consultant reports and fact-finding trips abroad.
But he insists the money has not been wasted and says the plans which have been drawn up can be incorporated into any new hospital, whether that is a one at Wynyard or an upgrade of the Stockton site.
“This board’s strategy has always been to replace Hartlepool and North Tees. We firmly believed that was the right thing to do, and we still do.”
When asked by the Mail if it would not have been better to leave services in Hartlepool until a new build was given the green light, he added: “That would have been nice, but we want the best for people and this is about services not bricks and mortar.
“We tried to keep as much in Hartlepool as well could, but as we have said before we couldn’t recruit the amount of doctors to keep services running across two sites.”
And in a final message to his critics, Mr Foster went on: “I can tell you that nobody is more disappointed than me today, or my board, or my clinicians.
“We are pausing for 10 months.
“We will see what happens at the next election. Health is a big political issue.
“In that time we will continue to engage with staff and the public about how we can make services better