THE people of Hartlepool have spoken – and now it’s time for health bosses to listen to them.
The Mail’s Bring Them Back petition, which was set up after controversial plans for a new hospital at Wynyard were shelved, reached a landmark on Monday when the 10,000th resident added their name to the list.
We launched the campaign on November 3 with the backing of town MP Iain Wright and representatives of all of the political groups in Hartlepool, and have been overwhelmed with the response from the people of Hartlepool who are calling on North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to return services back to our hospital in Holdforth Road.
Trust chief executive Alan Foster and chairman Paul Garvin have both insisted that restoring services to Hartlepool is not an option, despite new guidance from NHS England favouring local services over centralisation.
They maintain that stance today despite being informed of the 10,000 signatures urging them to perform a u-turn.
Mr Foster and Mr Garvin came under pressure at a public meeting at Hartlepool’s Town Hall Theatre last week, where more than 300 people packed in to make their feelings known.
The Trust also came under-fire from Hartlepool’s councillors, who put their political differences to one side to record a vote of no confidence in board members and pledge to take the matter to the Secretary of State for Health.
Mr Wright said: “My initial reaction to hearing that 10,000 people have signed this petition simply reinforces the huge strength of feeling that there is in the town about this issue.
“The message from the people of Hartlepool to the NHS Trust is loud and clear. Services need to be brought back.
“The Trust should set up a task now to set about restoring services to Hartlepool as a matter of urgency.
“All credit to the Mail for setting this campaign up, and I would urge anyone who hasn’t signed it yet to put pen to paper to add strength to this fight.”
The Trust was made aware of the 10,000 signatures yesterday, but Mr Garvin is adamant that services will not be returning.
He said: “We know that feelings are running high at the moment and understand the reasons why.
“However we must to listen to what our doctors, who are experts in their field, are telling us and that is that it is not possible to develop a clinically safe accident and emergency department and intensive care unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and consequently it is not possible to return these services together with acute medicine.
“At the Town Hall meeting and other public meetings many people, including the most vociferous, said ‘We are not taking issue with what the doctors say but we want our services back’ yet we are acting on the same clinical advice of the very same doctors.
“We know there are issues for the public ranging from public transport, ambulance response, walk in service, minor injuries, GP access out of hours, local elderly care and community facilities to name a few and as we do not provide many of these services ourselves we all need to work together to resolve these problems, but putting back non-compliant services into Hartlepool cannot be the way to do it.”
Plans to build a £300m hospital at Wynyard were put on a backburner until after the General Election after the Trust was left frustrated by a series of delays and wranglings over how the facility would be funded.
But with the majority of services having been moved out of the University Hospital of Hartlepool to the Trust’s other base in Stockton, there are strong fears that town residents will be faced with the prospect of having North Tees as their local hospital.
• There is still time to add your name to the petition before it is passed onto the hospital trust, NHS England and the Department of Health in a bid to bring about changes.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION, or alternatively call into our reception in Wesley Square between 10am-2pm to leave your signature.