Councillor questions hospital plans

Keith Fisher
Keith Fisher

A NEWLY-elected councillor has written to the health ombudsman expressing his concerns over the future of hospital services.

Keith Fisher, an independent councillor and prominent campaigner, contacted the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to query the powers of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Coun Fisher is questioning how the Trust’s board can “plough ahead” with plans to build a new £300m hospital at Wynyard, on the outskirts of town, despite public protests and a vote of “no confidence” in the board by Hartlepool councillors.

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The role of the Ombudsman is to consider complaints that government departments, a range of other public bodies in the UK, and the NHS in England, have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service.

Trust bosses, which run hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton, are planning to close the current sites and move services to a single hospital at Wynyard.

A decision over the funding is expected to be made in July or August.

They say there have been several reviews and their mandate has been approved by the Secretary of State for Health.

Coun Fisher, chairman of the Save Our Hospital campaign, said: “All I am doing is questioning the powers of the unelected quango.

“How can they, despite the protests in town and the vote of no confidence from the council, continue to plough ahead with their plans.

“Do they have the power to do that?

“In a world renowned birthplace of democracy just how much power can be held by an unelected quango?”

Coun Fisher, who represents the Hart ward, said he is “simply asking” the Ombudsman for guidance.

He has received a reply stating his email had been received and that they would come back to him.

Health bosses say in recent years there have been several service reviews across the whole of Teesside starting with the Tees Review in 2003.

Then there was the ‘Darzi Review’, also known as the Acute Services Review – Stockton and Hartlepool, in July 2005.

From that the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Primary Care Trusts’ as commissioners carried out a consultation in September 2005.

Health chiefs say all of the reviews talked about the need for change.

A spokeswoman for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “There was a referral to the Secretary of State for Health and, from that, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel made their recommendations, one of which was to build a new hospital to serve the people of Hartlepool, Stockton and parts of Easington and Sedgefield.

“So the mandate was the recommendation of that report which was approved by the Secretary of State for health and published in December 2006.

“After that we begun the Momentum consultation in June 2008, the outcome of which that the Wynyard site was chosen as the preferred site for the new hospital.”

Last September, the no confidence vote saw councillors from all parties condemn Alan Foster, chief executive of the Trust, chairman Paul Garvin and the rest of the board following the closure of the A&E department at the town’s hospital.