A FURIOUS campaigner has called on Hartlepool Borough Council to cut all ties with hospital bosses after the decision was made to transfer all remaining emergency and critical care services out of town.
Independent councillor Keith Fisher described a public consultation of the issue as “a stage managed insult” by health leaders.
The decision means the trust will close four emergency medical wards at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, with a total of 135 beds removed and affect 200 jobs.
Also, Hartlepool’s critical care unit – which includes two intensive care beds and two high-dependency beds – are to be relocated to The University Hospital of North Tees’ 12-bed critical care unit.
Coun Fisher launched his broadside after the governing bodies of the area’s two NHS clinical commissioning groups gave their backing for their plans to the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the two hospitals.
Coun Fisher, a long-time campaigner against the removal of services from Hartlepool’s hospital, said: “It was a clear and sickening demonstration of why quangos have no place in a democracy.
“The whole meeting, like the consultation process, was a complete stage-managed insult to any thinking person.
“You may be assured that the Trust will now swing into action with their ward closures, staff transfers, and bed removals in the same slick way that they closed A&E unless someone takes drastic action and makes real the now flagging vote of no confidence.
“The reality is that very soon we will be faced with the already orchestrated statements that a hospital with only 55 beds will soon be deemed as unsustainable at all.”
Coun Fisher also hit out at the poor attendance from the public, with just 16 people attending the meeting at Hartlepool College of Further Education.
He added: “I’ve recently asked where are the staff unions or associations, but now I’m forced to ask where the good people of Hartlepool and South East Durham are in the light of the fact that at a meeting venue with well over a hundred seats, there were 16 people?
“You may now watch while over 130 beds are moved to Stockton unless you and your representatives do something about it now.
“I do think it is time to formally withdraw all, and any, co-operation whatsoever from this Trust and thereby focus their thoughts on the possibility that they are not untouchables because we will no longer tolerate their audacity.”
Hartlepool Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, who also attended the meeting, said he was disappointed more people did not take part in the consultation but felt it was because they were only presented with one option.
He added the council had a statutory duty to work with the hospital trust and was the only way it could influence the deliver of public health services.
The public consultation was launched after hospital doctors raised safety concerns over the emergency medical and critical care services at Hartlepool.
They said they had only limited specialist support services which means some patients have to be transferred to North Tees and added it was difficult to recruit and keep medical staff at Hartlepool.
Nursing staff within the units also said they felt isolated and were concerned about the levels of care they could provide.
A spokesperson from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “Patient safety is our priority. Our doctors and nurses spent a lot of time talking to the public throughout the consultation and overwhelmingly they understood why the changes are necessary.
“We also listened to people’s concerns about transport and, working with our NHS partners, we have developed a transport plan which addresses these concerns. We want to work with our partners in the local authority to improve people’s access to their health appointments.”
Dr Boleslaw Posmyk, chair of NHS Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Throughout the consultation we have been working on a comprehensive transport plan which we hope will reassure local people we have listened to their concerns.
“Another key issue was the loss of services from the University Hospital of Hartlepool, which for some was related to the uncertainty around the new hospital at Wynyard.
“It is important to stress that while the planning for the new hospital continues, safety considerations are paramount and when hospital doctors raised their safety concerns with us over the provision of emergency medical and critical care services we needed to act quickly.
“Furthermore, we would like to remind local people that the vast majority, 97 per cent, of their healthcare contacts will remain in Hartlepool.”
l It’s your vote: Page 8