Health chief says services should be close to home in questions over Hartlepool hospital

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool
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THE boss of the NHS said the transfer of hospital services should be “a two way street” when he was quizzed on Hartlepool’s hospital.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said he was not always in favour of hospital centralisation.

The new chief executive of NHS, Simon Stevens

The new chief executive of NHS, Simon Stevens

He was responding to a question by Hartlepool’s Conservative parliamentary candidate Richard Royal about the controversy surrounding Hartlepool hospital services being transfered to Stockton.

Mr Royal asked if accident and emergency cover could return to the town at an event, hosted by the Institute for Healthcare Management.

Mr Stevens said: “I am aware of the issue and I visited Stockton a few weeks ago. The question is really one of configuration of services.

“Perhaps unfashionably, I’m not someone who always favours centralisation, and if we’re not careful we’ll be on a path to too much centralisation and less local facilities.”

This is a two way street, and whilst there are benefits to centralising some services, patients shouldn’t have to travel so far for other types of care and so many should move the other way and be more local.

Mr Stevens went on to say centralisation of some services had seen an increase in survival rates such as accident and stroke victims being taken straight to specialist centres rather than an A&E.

But he added: “But this is a two way street, and whilst there are benefits to centralising some services, patients shouldn’t have to travel so far for other types of care and so many should move the other way and be more local.

“For example, people should not be travelling long distances for something like chemotherapy or dialysis.”

Richard Royal said: “I was encouraged by Simon Stevens’ response to my questions, which indicated his preference for local services as opposed to centralised super-hospitals.

“This is exactly the sort of approach we need and Simon indicated he was willing to work with communities such as ours to find a resolution.”

The hospital trust says it is working to provide local services in line with Simon Stevens’ views.

It says a key part of its Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme is to provide care in or close to people’s homes.

That involves developing a network of community facilities with hospital as a last resort.

The trust adds kidney dialysis for critically ill patients can be provided to people from across the whole area, something it couldn’t do when critical care was on two sites at Hartlepool and Stockton.