HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright met with parents and staff from the under-threat nursery at the town’s hospital and said: “I don’t think there is a strong case for closure.”
Mr Wright attended a meeting on Saturday organised by Unison union members to find out just how the proposed closure of the Rainbow Nursery at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, with around 20 potential job losses, will impact on families.
The meeting, at the Carnegie building in Northgate on Hartlepool’s Headland, was followed by Unison representatives petitioning members of the public in the town centre.
At the meeting, one parent, Julie Humphries, an NHS worker from Hartlepool whose son Lewis Hillan, two, attends the nursery, said her partner may have to give up his job to look after Lewis if the nursery closes.
The Mail reported previously that the nursery, along with a similar facility at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, also threatened with closure and affecting 30 further staff, lost £764,000 in four years.
Mr Wright said: “I don’t think the trust has made a strong business case to close the nursery.
“There is very little financial information available so we can’t really scrutinise how it’s made a loss and what can be done to address it, given it’s always the lowest paid and vulnerable staff in the NHS that get shafted, it’s grossly unfair.”
He said he asked Alan Foster, chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, what had been done to maximise the potential of the nursery, which is at 54 per cent capacity, including promotion.
Julie Humphries said she was concerned that the decision appeared a “done deal”, despite the trust saying they are engaged in a 30-day consultation.
She said it would be unsettling to move her son from the nursery.
Staff, including some who have children at the nursery, also raised fears that they would be redeployed to other areas in the trust which they are not trained for.
Unison area organiser Mark Edmundson said: “We need to consult over the business case for the closure.
“I have requested several pieces of key information from the trust in order to be able to do that.”
He added that in 2012, there was a proposal to increase fees for the nursery, and that the question needed to be asked why that didn’t happen.
Stephen Thomas, Unison Labour party link officer for Hartlepool, said: “It makes you wonder whether it’s part of a bigger agenda and running down services generally and not doing anything to promote that service, it’s yet another service that’s gone.”
He added that the loss of the nursery may impact on attracting doctors to the trust, who may need childcare.
Mr Wright vowed to continue pressurising the Trust for answers on whether they have explored all options to keep the nurseries viable.
The Unison campaign is supported by the Northern Public Services Alliance.