Health chiefs feel the heat as councillors grill them over Hartlepool hospital changes

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

HEALTH chiefs faced a grilling from regional councillors over plans to move critical care and emergency medical services from the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Councillors from Hartlepool, Stockton and Durham met at the Civic Centre, in Hartlepool, to discuss the controversial plans to move all remaining critical care to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.

The plans, which will cost £2.3m and affect 10,000 patients, are out to consultation but concerned councillors and residents grilled officials from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) over transport concerns and the impact on staff and patients.

Health chiefs say the changes need to happen because of “significant” concerns and stress while the current service is safe, it is not sustainable to meet rising standards.

But Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “People are really angry about these proposals and you seem to be ignoring the people of Hartlepool.”

Durham County councillor Robin Todd asked if the plans were reversible if the planned £300m Wynyard hospital does not come off to which Dr Boleslaw Posmyk, chairman of Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, said: “That would not change the current clinical situation.”

It was confirmed the move would be “irreversible” but if the plans didn’t go-ahead there would be increased transfers of critically ill patients between hospitals.

Regarding transport concerns, Julie Gillon, Trust deputy chief executive, said two 17-seater mini-buses have been ordered, to operate 8am to 8pm seven days a week for public and staff, and 14 volunteers drivers are signed up, while they pledged to continue working on other transport plans.

Independent councillor Keith Fisher said: “I recognise this is a consultation and you hear what we have to say but my concerns is you are going to do it anyway.”

The plans would see all emergency admissions go to North Tees, four emergency medical wards close at Hartlepool with a total of 135 beds removed and the jobs of around 200 people affected.

Also, the critical care unit, which includes two intensive care beds and two high-dependency beds, relocated – to add to North Tees’s 12-bed critical care unit.

Hartlepool hospital would become a centre for day case and low risk operations with an increase in medical rehabilitation beds. It follows a review by the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) after concerns from staff.

Dr Posmyk told the health scrutiny joint committee: “This is troubling a lot of people but we can’t ignore the significant clinical facts.”

The councils will now formulate their own responses.