A HEALTH trust boss has mocked Hartlepool Council’s bid to force the Government to step into the row over the return of hospital services to the town.
In a leaked email, sent to all North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust staff, chairman Paul Garvin dismissed the council’s actions as nothing more than “political posturing”, saying the council was powerless to formally refer the Trust to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
It was sent following a heated public meeting which saw councillors unanimously pass a vote of no confidence in the Trust.
In the email, which the Hartelpool Mail has seen, Mr Garvin:
• Gave his full backing to the Trust’s underfire chief executive Alan Foster;
• Said the council had “no power” to formally refer the Trust to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt;
• Accused the council of not listening to clinical views;
• Said a return of key hospital services to Hartlepool would be “neither safe nor sustainable”.
The email followed a heated public meeting at the Town Hall on Monday evening.
Click here to sign the petition calling for hospital services to return to Hartlepool
At the meeting, councillors all agreed on a motion which will see the local authority send a formal letter to the Secretary of State for Health to make him aware of the strength of feeling at hospital services being centralised at North Tees.
The email also accuses many of Hartlepool’s councillors – who voted unanimously to record a vote of no confidence the Trust – of “politically posturing”.
It read: “By now you will have seen the coverage about the meeting in the Town Hall Theatre on Monday night where council members heard from a number of our senior clinicians the reasons for centralising accident and emergency, critical care and emergency medicine at the University Hospital of North Tees.
“However it was clear that they did not wish to listen to the arguments put forward by our clinicians and simply reiterated that they wanted a return of these services to Hartlepool which would neither be safe nor sustainable.
“They supported another vote of no confidence in the trust board, called for the whole board of the trust to resign and agreed to send a letter to the Secretary of State for Health.
“As chairman of the trust I want to tell you that the board has full confidence in Alan (Foster) and the executive directors to continue to be a high performing trust and to continue to put patient safety and quality at the top of their agenda.
“I am disappointed in the council’s actions because many councillors understand the logic and reasons for the change and are simply politically posturing.
“They have no power to formally refer the trust to the Secretary of State.
“I feel that expectations have been raised by this action which will only lead to further disappointment.”
In a seperate email, which was sent on behalf of chief executive Alan Foster, medical director David Emerton and patient safety chief Cath Siddle, Trust staff were told: “The changes which have been made to hospital services in the past few years have been done for purely clinical reasons.
“They are not to do with money, neither are they decisions made by any one individual in the trust.”
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Council, is aware of the email but has insisted that the letter will be sent to Whitehall despite Mr Garvin’s claim.
He said: “The council feels that it must question the statements made by the Chair and Chief Executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust in respect of the current and future arrangements for the provision of hospital services for Hartlepool and the surrounding area.
“This follows the public meeting held in Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre on Monday November 24 attended by over 300 people and the subsequent Extraordinary Meeting of the Council where the strong views expressed were in stark contrast to the comments made by representatives of the NHS Foundation Trust board.
“The council believes it has a duty to act in the interests of local people by writing to the Secretary of State for Health and requesting a meeting to further discuss the continuation and improvement of hospital services for the benefit of people in Hartlepool and the surrounding area.”