HUNDREDS of jobs are set to be affected and hospital wards closed under controversial plans to transfer emergency medical wards and the critical care unit from Hartlepool to Stockton.
Health chiefs have unveiled plans to move the remaining emergency services from the University Hospital of Hartlepool to the University Hospital of North Tees later this year.
Hospital campaigners and councillors have hit out at the plans, which follow the closure of the A&E department in 2011.
The plans - subject to a three-month public consultation - would see:
• All emergency admissions go to North Tees;
• Four emergency medical wards close at Hartlepool with up to 120 beds removed;
• The jobs of up to 300 people affected, with staff from the existing emergency medical wards and critical care unit transferring to Stockton. But there are no compulsory redundancies planned;
• The critical care unit, which includes two intensive care beds and two high dependency beds, relocated to add to North Tees’s 12-bed critical care unit.
The University Hospital of Hartlepool would become a centre for diagnostic tests, day case and low risk operations with an increase in the number of medical rehabilitation beds.
The re-location, in the run up to the planned £300m hospital at Wynyard, will affect around 30 patients a day from the Hartlepool and Easington area and see an extra 120 beds at North Tees located in existing areas of the building.
The move will also affect Hartlepool staff working in other parts of the medical division and surgery support services such as radiology, pathology and pharmacy.
It follows an independent review of services by the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT), which was commissioned by the NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) after concerns from staff at the Holdforth Road site about emergency and critical care services.
Health bosses stress services are “currently safe, but not sustainable” to meet rising national standards and NCAT acknowledged changes should be made quickly to ensure services are of the “required standard”.
Dr Boleslaw Posmyk, Hartlepool GP and chairman of Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, said: “We asked NCAT to review the trust plans to ensure that the proposed changes were necessary and appropriate to support improvements in clinical quality and safety.
“Their report has provided independent clinical assurance that these changes will result in better services for local people.
“I understand that some residents will have concerns about the planned changes to hospital services.
“However, we have an obligation to make sure that they are safe, sustainable and meet the required quality standards.
“We will be giving local people the opportunity to have their say in the near future.”
The public consultation launches on Monday.
Dr Paul Williams, who sits on the NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, said: “This is not about beds and buildings, this is about people’s lives.
“We need to make sure the best possible care is given to the people of Hartlepool when they are acutely ill.”
David Emerton, medical director for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust which runs both hospitals, said: “Our doctors told us they could have provided two critical care units and two emergency medical services until 2014, which was when the hospital was originally due to open, but with the timescale slipping they simply could not keep things the way they are and maintain the safety and quality standards we would all want for our loved ones.
“We welcomed the opportunity to meet the National Clinical Advisory Team and explain our reasons for this and we also welcomed the fact they agreed with what our very experienced doctors said.
“Ultimately we are all committed to moving to the new hospital because this will mean we can provide the highest quality of sustainable services in one convenient geographical location.
“However, we need to take this interim step now to preserve and improve quality and safety.”