‘You’re not listening’ – Hartlepool MP blasts health chiefs over hospital services

Iain Wright the MP for Hartlepool with the Hartlepool Mail hospital petition
Iain Wright the MP for Hartlepool with the Hartlepool Mail hospital petition
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Renewed calls have been backed for A&E services to be returned to Hartlepool.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has accused hospital bosses of failing to listen to the wishes of people to return accident and emergency services to town.

Hospital protester (3rd left) Stan Cronin and fellow protesters outside of North Tees Hospital. Picture by FRANK REID

Hospital protester (3rd left) Stan Cronin and fellow protesters outside of North Tees Hospital. Picture by FRANK REID

Mr Wright criticised the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust in the House of Commons during a debate on pressures felt by accident and emergency services.

He said people wanted a “fully functioning” hospital in Hartlepool with an A&E and asked what the Government would do to make sure local people’s wishes are heard when shaping services.

Now the call has been backed by Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, who is leading discussions with Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group on the future of health services in the town.

Mr Wright said several other places with smaller populations than Hartlepool had A&E departments.

The local trust is simply not listening

Iain Wright

He added the hospital trust would require more Government funding and that more GPs are needed to pave the way for a possible return of Hartlepool’s A&E which closed on safety grounds in August 2011.

Mr Wright said: “The Minister spoke of local solutions, and the people of Hartlepool, Hartlepool Borough Council and I, as the MP for Hartlepool, want that to be the approach, but we are not being heard.

“The local trust is simply not listening.” He said having fewer A&E departments puts more strain on other hospitals and the NHS generally.

He also told Parliament Hartlepool had a greater need for its own A&E because of the town’s health inequalities, deprivation levels, ageing population and poor public transport links.

The University Hospital of Hartlepool

The University Hospital of Hartlepool

He added: “Greater access to GPs and better integration of all health and social care services has to be the way forward, but that also includes giving the people of Hartlepool what they want, which, put simply, is a fully functioning hospital in the town and an accident and emergency department at its very heart.”

Mr Wright asked what the Government would do to make sure the hospital trust, which he said is £4 million in the red, is better off financially to help clear the way for a return of services to Hartlepool.

He said: “I am arguing for the services to be returned to the town, but given the precarious finances of the trust I am fearful that most services will move further away or simply cease to operate, putting further pressures on the local health economy, such as James Cook hospital, and other parts of health and social care.” He said clinical safety was paramount for A&E services but said: “Different clinical models and reconfigurations are available to allow smaller towns to retain their A&Es.”

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Ben Gummer said: “Far from the picture painted today... the NHS is treating more people than ever before, it is treating more people in A&E than ever before and it is treating more people at a higher rate of satisfaction than ever before, and the result of that is that patient outcomes ... have improved. We are treating more people to a higher standard.”

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Alan Foster responded to Mr Wright’s comments by saying: “Centralising accident and emergency at the University Hospital of North Tees was essential to provide additional hours of A&E consultant cover in order to improve services for all of the people in our catchment area.

“Our four hour waiting time target in A&E is one of the best in country.”