A&E campaigners vow to fight on


CAMPAIGNERS who battled in vain to keep emergency services open at the University Hospital of Hartlepool insist their fight is not over.

On the day the hospital’s A&E department was due to close, Keith Fisher, chairman of the Save Our Hospital group, was due to write to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in a last-ditch attempt to have the decision overturned.

KEITH FISHER: Writing to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley

KEITH FISHER: Writing to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley

Mr Fisher also called for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chiefs to be sacked after “failing to represent the public’s views”.

Following numerous calls to keep the department open and last week’s protest march, which saw more than 600 people take to the streets, he said: “The campaign was, and still is, worthwhile.

“If the general public don’t say anything, if they don’t try to voice their opinion then people like the trust members will simply do what they want to do.

“I’m still pressurising the trust to give us back our services.”

Mr Fisher said the situation was similar to when the Hartlepool site lost maternity services to the University Hospital of North Tees.

He added: “It’s another major blow, but what they can move in one direction they can move in another.

“With the current trust, we have no hope.

“I want them all sacked. I will never stop fighting for our hospital.”

Mr Fisher said the Holdforth Road hospital would be the “best in the North-East” if the £20m spent on One Life Hartlepool had been used on the hospital instead.

He also said he was disappointed Hartlepool Borough Council had not held an extraordinary meeting to confirm whether the local authority supported the decision to close the facility.

Council chairman Councillor Carl Richardson said: “Hartlepool councillors have made it absolutely clear on several occasions that they were not happy with the planned closure of the A&E unit. But the decision rests with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.”

He said the council would be monitoring the new arrangements closely and added: “During the past couple of days I have received approaches to call an extraordinary meeting of the council.

“But by law this requires five working days notice so was not possible before the A&E closed.

“We also looked into the injunction option, but this would have costs tens of thousands of pounds and wouldn’t have succeeded because the independent review panel has concluded that it must close for safety and training reasons.”

In a joint statement NHS Hartlepool and North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our first priority is having safe services and the reason why accident and emergency in Hartlepool was the first significant move under the momentum programme was that, due to the training requirements of junior doctors, services in accident and emergency could not continue as they were.”

The trusts did not respond to Mr Fisher’s call for dismissal of members, but paid tribute to staff as they start work under the new arrangements.