THE letter sent by Hartlepool’s leaders to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt:
The RT Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health
The Department of Health
1 December 2014
Dear Mr Hunt,
We are writing to you on behalf of Hartlepool Borough Council to highlight exceptionally serious concerns regarding the suitability and effectiveness of current, and future planned, hospital services for Hartlepool and the surrounding communities of Sedgefield, Easington and Peterlee.
You will be aware that, in 2005, Lord Darzi of Denham’s Acute Services Review on Teesside recommended greater integration and redistribution of services between the University Hospital North Tees and the University Hospital Hartlepool and rejected a proposal for a new single-site hospital north of the Tees. The development of a single site hospital was, however, reintroduced by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel in 2006 and the selection of a preferred location was included as part of the Momentum to Pathways consultation in 2008.
This resulted in the identification of a site at Wynyard for the construction of a new £300m single site hospital.
Whilst development work for the new hospital has progressed since 2008, difficulties in obtaining the required funding have prevented the implementation of the scheme.
On the 23 October 2014, the North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust announced its intention to ‘pause’ the creation of a new hospital, as a funding decision was highly unlikely prior to next May’s General Election.
This announcement provoked an unprecedented public outcry at the promise of a world class hospital that has never come to fruition and in the incremental migration of services (A&E and Critical Care, by way of examples) in the intervening period that has acted to damage the quality and sustainability of a once excellent hospital.
In a very short period of time, 9,800 signatures have already been gathered on a petition for the reinstatement of services and a public meeting on the 24 November 2014, allowed residents to voice their support for front line clinicians, who work under very difficult circumstances, whilst questioning the competency of management and 2 the provision of services that are fit, proper and meet the wishes of local residents.
The 300+ residents present at this meeting made an impassioned plea for the:
l Reinstatement of services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool to meet the needs of a population in a sustainable and accessible manner, this being particularly relevant for a population where nearly half live in deprived areas, with a life expectancy lower than the England average and levels of car ownership significantly less than other areas;
l The restoration of Hartlepool’s hospital to its historic 5 star status;
l The resignation of the Foundation Trust Board, who residents feel have detrimentally impacted on the sustainability of the University Hospital Hartlepool through the reconfiguration and removal of services over a prolonged period.
In recognition of the strength of feeling, an extraordinary Council meeting was also held on the 24 November 2014.
During the course of this meeting, Councillors supported residents’ views and expressed concern regarding the long term sustainability of the remaining services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in particular the remaining birthing unit, and queried why transitional funding for the Momentum project (for the provision of services across both sites) could not be used to return services to Hartlepool.
During the course of both meetings, representatives for the Trust emphasised the clinical basis for service change and an insistence from the Chief Executive of the Trust that there is ‘no chance’ of services returning to Hartlepool.
The Trust’s continued unwillingness to listen to the wishes of residents was emphasised by the town’s MP (Iain Wright), who supported the call for the reinstatement of services at Hartlepool Hospital and asked that the Trust recognise that the construction of a new hospital at Wynyard was no longer an option - funding would not become available after the General Election.
He also drew attention to the content of NHS England’s new NHS Five Year Forward Plan, upon which he has already asked a number of Parliamentary questions. The Plan details the intention for Multispeciality Community Providers to take over the running of (an area’s) main district general hospital, helping to sustain local hospital services by changing the NHS payment regime; looking at new models of medical staffing and new organisational models for smaller acute hospitals that enable them to gain the benefits of scale without necessarily having to centralise services.
Why can’t this be Hartlepool Hospital?
Full Council went on to unanimously agree the attached motion and in accordance with the wishes of Council I would like to formally refer the concerns of our residents to you with the aim of seeing Hartlepool’s hospital returned to being the hub of excellent health services for the residents of Hartlepool and the its surrounding communities. Hartlepool has since 2005 made a number of referrals to respective Secretaries of State, and a delegation visited the Secretary State in 2011, seeking the reinstatement of services and the provision of a fully functioning, and sustainable, hospital in Hartlepool.
In 2005, we received welcome assurances from the Secretary of State (John Reid) that: “As long as I am Secretary of State, Hartlepool’s Hospital will not close. Hartlepool’s hospital is one of the best in the UK and I am determined to keep it that way.
“In particular I want to assure you I have no intention of approving – no matter where the suggestion comes from – any proposal to downgrade hospital services for Hartlepool, or any suggestion Hartlepool’s hospital is closed and people are left without accessible hospital services.”
This was supported by the then Prime Minister who stated that “There is no question of the hospital closing or being run down. I hope people understand there has never been any question of the hospital closing, we are there to improve it and not run it down”.
We do recognise that NHS Foundation Trusts have independent status, however, Simon Burns in 2011 highlighted that Trusts are locally controlled and run, accountable to local people.
It is clear that our Trust is failing in its commitment to meet the needs and wishes of Hartlepool’s residents and given the strength of feeling displayed at our recent public meeting, and the total commitment of our Council to see the return of services, I would like to request a meeting with you, at the earliest possible opportunity.
I would like to extend a formal invitation to Hartlepool, however, I realise that this may not be possible and in order to progress things quickly a delegation of representatives from interested parties would be available to attend your offices in London.
I would like to thank you for your time and on behalf of the residents of Hartlepool, I look forward to hearing from you.
Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher
LEADER OF HARTLEPOOL BOROUGH COUNCIL
Letter supported by:
Councillor Ainslie - Labour
Councillor Atkinson - Putting Hartlepool First
Councillor Barclay - Labour
Councillor Beck - Labour
Councillor Brash - Independent
Councillor Clark - Labour
Councillor Cook - Labour
Councillor Cranney - Labour
Councillor Dawkins - Putting Hartlepool First
Councillor Fleet - Labour
Councillor Gibbon - Putting Hartlepool First
Councillor Griffin - Labour
Councillor Hall - Labour
Councillor Hargreaves - Independent
Councillor Hind - UK Independent Party
Councillor Jackson - Labour
Councillor James - Labour
Councillor Lauderdale - Independent
Councillor Lilley - Putting Hartlepool First
Councillor Loynes - Local Conservative
Councillor Martin-Wells - Local Conservative
Councillor Morris - Local Conservative
Councillor Payne - Labour
Councillor Richardson - Labour
Councillor Riddle - Putting Hartlepool First
Councillor Robinson - Labour
Councillor Simmons - Labour
Councillor Sirs - Labour
Councillor Springer - UK Independent Party
Councillor Thomas - Labour
Councillor Thompson - Independent
Motion passed unanimously at the Extraordinary Council meeting on November 24, 2014
l Reaffirms its vote of no-confidence in the Chief Executive of the Trust, the Chairman of the Trust and the entire Board of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust.
l Calls for the entire Board of the Trust to resign with immediate effect and a new Board to be voted in.
l Refers the matter to the Secretary of State for Health given the concerns about public safety and flawed consultation.
l Demands that there is no further degradation of services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and a plan is put in place to return the services already removed.
l Returns the Health Scrutiny powers and responsibilities delegated to the Audit and Governance Committee to Full Council so that future discussions and decisions are taken by the entire body of elected councillors.
l That an audience with the Secretary of State be sought to express the strength of feeling of which representatives from all interested parties be invited to participate.