Council and hospital chiefs set to work together on health board after rift

University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton
University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton

A hospital trust is to be welcomed back onto a Hartlepool health committee after being removed in protest by councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council removed hospital bosses from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust from the Hartlepool Health and Wellbeing Board 18 months ago.

It was in response to councillors’ anger at the actions of the trust over changes to fertility provision in Hartlepool.

Councillors said they were treated with “contempt” over the hospital trust’s non-attendance at council meetings into the changes and accused the trust of lying to them over the reasons for them.

The council took legal action in the High Court to halt the fertility changes while the issue was investigated.

But councillors have now agreed to let a member of the trust back on the health board.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, who is chair of the committee, said advice around acute care had been missing from its discussions.

He said: “I know this is a very emotive subject to be debating within the council, based on history.

“But as chair of Health and Wellbeing Board I can honestly say that there is a dimension of our debate and our discussion which makes recommendations go forward, missing.

“I accept there should be representation on the Health and Wellbeing Board but we strongly say it must be the most senior clinician from the hospital trust or their appointed substitute.

“It is not a management place, it is to get that clinical advice in order to make us more robust in our discussions.”

As well as Hartlepool councillors and council officers, the Health and Wellbeing Board’s members also include Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group, Healthwatch, the Tees Esk and Wear Valley mental health trust, and NHS England.

UKIP group leader on Hartlepool council, Coun John Tennant, said: “We have always said in our party that the NHS needs to have more clinical advice to make it better run and I’m pleased to support the recommendation that we seek the most senior professional available, who understands best what’s going on.”

Coun Brenda Loynes said she recently met with hospital trust chief executive Alan Foster and chairman Paul Garvin.

She said: “They really want to work with us. I told them in no uncertain terms that if a member was accepted back onto the Health and Wellbeing board that they’ve got to listen to the people of Hartlepool.

“People in Hartlepool are very concerned about the hospital and health, and I welcome this decision.”