Mayor calls for A&E to re-open

Stuart Drummond

Stuart Drummond

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HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond called for the A&E department at the University Hospital of Hartlepool to re-open.

But Steve Wallace, chairman of NHS Hartlepool, said if it did reopen the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, would shut it because it would not be safe.

Mayor Drummond said he could understand the reasons behind the closure due to junior doctors being withdrawn.

But he raised concerns as to whether the new changes have improved the health service and asked: “Can you, will you, review that decision and reopen the A&E?”

Mr Wallace said: “If that decision is taken the Care Quality Commission would shut it down next week.”

Mayor Drummond added that the communication from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust had been “appalling”.

He said he received a phone call recently from his wife to say his son - who is prone to anaphylactic shocks - had had an allergic reaction and he did not know where to take him.

He was advised the best thing to do is call 999.

Mayor Drummond was speaking at the extraordinary meeting, which was due to be held on September 8 before it was cancelled because the Civic Centre could not accommodate everyone who turned up.

The meeting was rearranged and it was agreed to also hold a public meeting.

During the public meeting NHS Hartlepool representatives answered more than 30 questions on A&E, One Life Hartlepool the future of Hartlepool’s hospital, and plans for a new hospital at Wynyard.

Residents from east Durham also voiced concerns, while one man described the changes to health services as “death by a thousand cuts”.

Stephen Childs, interim chief executive of NHS Hartlepool, said the A&E closure was nothing to do with money, but rather the safety of the public and the inability to attract specialist staff.

But two months after its closure and residents still expressed confusion as to where to go with what injuries.

Mr Wallace repeated on numerous occasions that One Life Hartlepool is not for major injuries. He said anyone in any doubt should call 999.

He added: “As we speak One Life is working well.”

Mr Wallace said: “In Hartlepool we have worse health than the majority of the North-East and the North-East is worse than the majority of England and Scotland.

“One of the best places for health is east Durham and they work with a system which involves community care, that is what we are working towards.

“Even people with mining legacies in the collieries live longer than in Hartlepool.”

At one point resident representative Evelyn Leck called for Mr Wallace to be sacked.

One hospital worker, who did not want to be named, said: “I have worked in A&E and it used to be a top performing hospital.

“They have run the place down systematically.”

The claims were refuted by Mr Wallace.

When Mr Childs was asked if he can give assurances that the current hospital services will remain, he replied: “So long as they are delivered safely.”