HEALTH bosses have moved to distance themselves from claims by a hospital chief that the University Hospital of Hartlepool will close.
NHS Foundation Trust chief Alan Foster insists the site will close with services either transferred to a proposed £300m hospital at Wynyard or be amalgamated at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
But bosses at NHS Hartlepool, which commission services, have stressed that no decisions have yet been taken on the future of the Holdforth Road site.
They say that any changes on the scale reported would require a comprehensive public consultation across Hartlepool, Stockton and Durham.
Confirmation that Hartlepool’s hospital will close was announced when the Trust, which runs hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton, revealed it has to slash £40m off its budget over the next three years.
Hundreds of jobs are set to be axed and vital services threatened as a result of the devastating blow with every service and aspect of healthcare coming under scrutiny.
Steve Wallace, chairman of NHS Hartlepool, said: “Like the rest of the NHS, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is facing very challenging times and while we support the trust’s decision to be open and frank with the public about the scale of the financial challenge, we would like to firmly reassure people that no decisions have been made about the future of Hartlepool hospital.
“As things stand NHS Hartlepool support the trust board in their bid for funding for a brand new hospital.
“The possibility that should this not happen and Hartlepool Hospital might close, has never been discussed by the board of NHS Hartlepool or our partners at NHS Tees.
“We would insist that any plans for new major service changes come before local patient groups, councillors and patients themselves before we even thought of approving them.”
Stephen Childs, chief executive for NHS Tees, said: “Every one of our health care providers face huge financial challenges over the next three years, as do our colleagues in the police and the local authorities.
“In the case of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, £40m savings must be found by 2015.”
NHS Hartlepool say commissioners, including local Primary Care Trusts and local GPs, are continuing to work closely with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust on the proposed new hospital at Wynyard and now await feedback on the business case from the Department of Health.
They say they are “cautiously optimistic” – but say they recognise the new hospital is not guaranteed and have pledged to work together to discuss what an alternative for the future might be.
Health chiefs say they want to talk to people, community groups and councillors across Hartlepool, Stockton and County Durham, over the coming weeks in a bid to hear people’s views and to get their ideas on how to help meet the efficiency challenge.
Dr Boleslaw Posmyk, Chair of Hartlepool Pathfinder Clinical Commissioning Group added: “Our position is to ensure we maintain as many services close to patients in Hartlepool without compromising the quality of care provided and keeping within affordable limits.
“That is our aim.”
Mr Foster, the trust’s chief executive, said: “We are still waiting for news from the Department of Health on the outline business case for the new hospital and we look forward to working with NHS Tees and other commissioners on the way forward whatever the outcome.”
It comes after 98 per cent of Hartlepool Mail readers voted in favour of keeping a hospital in Hartlepool rather than building a new one in Wynyard.
Some 2,809 people registered their vote by phone, text and on our Facebook page after we called on you to tell us what you thought.
The vote came in response to Mr Foster insisting that “the majority” of people would rather see the new hospital built at Wynyard rather than keeping open the existing site in the town.