IT is not my usual style to write open letters to newspapers but I feel that I must put the record straight to try and prevent the citizens of Hartlepool being seriously misled by some councillors as reported in the Mail on June 4.
Currently the University Hospital of Hartlepool provides a broad range of elective surgery, including hip and knee replacement surgery and many other elective (ie. non-emergency) surgical procedures for the people of Stockton, Hartlepool, South-East Durham and Sedgefield.
It is also a major elective surgery centre for all our population.
The hospital also provides emergency medical care and has a very small intensive care unit and high dependency unit consisting of 2 ICU and 2 HDU beds.
Our consultants and nurses have told us that this small critical care unit is often only occupied at less than 50 per cent capacity and is no longer capable of meeting the national standards for critical care units.
This problem can not be fixed by throwing money at it as modern critical care units need to be of a size and complexity to handle a vast range of emergencies.
As a result our commissioners, the Clinical Commissioning Group, which is run by GPs, invited the National Clinical Advisory Team to independently review the situation and report back to them.
That report stated that the unit was not sustainable and the work should be transferred to North Tees.
Removal of the critical care unit means that our acute medicine service (the more serious medical patients) has also to move as acute medicine needs to have onsite critical care available should a patient’s condition deteriorate.
However I should make it clear that knee and hip replacement surgery, day case surgery and general elective surgery will remain at Hartlepool.
This elective surgery will continue to serve the whole of our population unless a patient is assessed as being particularly at high risk.
More than 97 per cent of health service contacts will also continue to be delivered in Hartlepool.
It appears that some Councillors are now proposing to use the Health and Wellbeing Board to divert patients, other than emergency patients, to other hospitals outside Hartlepool for their elective treatments.
However they appear to be missing the point that these are the very services that are being provided in Hartlepool and will continue to be provided in Hartlepool.
Furthermore with elective care it is the patient, not the council or anyone else for that matter, who chooses where they wish to be treated and the money follows the patient.
There is also an implied threat that the council will withdraw the subsidy provided for public transport between North Tees and Hartlepool at the very time that the trust is planning a greater investment in transport to make life easier for Hartlepool and South-East Durham residents.
Any such action would simply make life more difficult for Hartlepool residents and increase complaints so I have to ask the question why?
In short if the council’s proposals were to come to fruition then they, and not the trust, would precipitate the closure of the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
One thing is certain, no patients, no hospital.
Our clinicians, nursing, administrative and management staff are doing everything they can to provide first class, quality healthcare and maintain services in Hartlepool and to provide care closer to home.
Standards change with the passage of time and what was thought to be good safe care years ago is not be thought to be good or safe now.
Under the code of conduct councillors are required to act with sound judgement, integrity and objectivity in assessing the issues before them and are not usually allowed to take part in any discussion or vote on an issue on which they have a prejudicial interest (ie, an issue on which they have formed a prejudged view.)
So I am asking them to objectively listen to the evidence of the consultants, doctors and experts.
We would rather not make the changes either but our responsibility is to provide safe care for our residents and we have no choice.
We want to listen to residents concerns and do all that we reasonably can to address them but maintaining the status quo does not appear to be achievable.
This letter is not intended to be part of the formal consultation process and details will soon be circulated as to the programme of consultation events where your concerns can be heard.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.