A&E closure fears averted for now, say health chiefs

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

Hartlepool’s nearest A&E is set to stay after NHS bosses confirmed proposals which could have seen it downgraded are off the table.

Previous proposals over local NHS services under the Better Health Programme and Sustainability and Transformation Plans included a reorganisation of local hospitals that would have seen either the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, or Darlington Memorial Hospital lose their A&E department by 2020.

Following feedback, including various campaign groups against the idea, local NHS leaders have confirmed both A&Es will remain open.

But work is continuing to find better ways of working across the NHS to deal with demands from an increasing elderly population and changes may be needed.

Alan Foster, sustainability and transformation partnerships lead for the North East and North Cumbria, said: “I’d like to reassure elected members that the position for the NHS has not changed and over the last few months NHS bodies have been working across organisational boundaries in order to respond to the valuable feedback that was gained from the Better Health Programme.

“This feedback has been extremely helpful and NHS organisations are considering how we can develop clinical networks across organisations and share expertise, while at the same time ensuring individual organisations continue to deliver quality services.”

Mr Foster added: “Local clinicians are currently working across organisational boundaries to build consensus on the right models of hospital, community and primary care for the increasing number of people who have long term health conditions and to support the delivery of local specialist emergency care where possible and appropriate.”

He said they will continue to engage with local councils, councillors, Healthwatch, community and voluntary organisations, patients and the wider public to explain the need for services to adapt and change and to seek their views.

A spokesperson for the NHS North OF England Commissioning Support Unit added: “NHS partners remain focused on delivering a programme of transformation to improve the health outcomes of the populations we serve. It remains that we must make services more robust – particularly given workforce pressures – and reduce unwarranted variations in the quality of care. In striving to achieve this, it is possible that some changes and improvements may be necessary to services currently provided from different hospital sites.”

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine union warned such plans could have had “disastrous consequences”.