Delegates voice A&E concerns to Minister

One of the No A & E hospital signs outside of the University Hospital of Hartlepool. Picture By FRANK REID
One of the No A & E hospital signs outside of the University Hospital of Hartlepool. Picture By FRANK REID

A DELEGATION of councillors has met with a health minister in London to discuss concerns over the closure of the accident and emergency department at Hartlepool hospital.

Four councillors, as well as Hartlepool MP Iain Wright and Easington MP Grahame Morris, met with Minister of State for Health Simon Burns in the capital yesterday.

The meeting with the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s deputy was arranged to discuss major concerns over the A&E closure at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in Holdforth Road.

It coincided with Coun Carl Richardson, chair of the council, slamming Mr Lansley for failing to respond to a letter he sent more than three weeks ago.

Coun Richardson wrote to Mr Lansley, on behalf of the full council, after members unanimously backed a motion of no confidence in the board of directors at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust over the closure.

Speaking at last night’s meeting of the full council, Coun Richardson said: “I was asked to send a letter to Mr Lansley, and to date I am yet to receive a reply.

“That is disgusting. They should have had at least acknowledged the letter.”

Bosses from the Foundation Trust did not attend the extraordinary council meeting held at Hartlepool College of Further Education on September 29, when the motion was passed.

Questions from the public and councillors were submitted to the Trust but Liberal Democrat councillor Edna Wright said as far as she knew there have been no replies.

Labour councillor Rob Cook said the Trust was treating the people of Hartlepool with “contempt” and added that the Trust is “sticking two fingers up” to residents.

He added: “The amount of questions that were put forward to them was phenomenal.

“To have no response after four weeks is disgusting.”

The London delegation included Labour group leader Chris Simmons, Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, who is chair of the health scrutiny forum, Conservative councillor Brenda Loynes and independent councillor Hilary Thompson.

The councillors are due to report back with their findings to an upcoming health scrutiny forum meeting.

Coun Richardson said: “The councillors are going to bring a report back, and I would urge people to go to the meeting to hear what was said and to voice their opinions.”

Meanwhile, independent councillor Geoff Lilley called on councillors in Hartlepool to join forces with members in east Durham in a “united front”.

It comes after Durham County Council’s Labour Group recently backed a resolution condemning health chiefs over the decision to close the A&E department at the Holdforth Road site in August.

Labour councillor Ged Hall agreed a united front would have more “influence” on Government and show the strength of feeling in the area.