Probe demanded into handling of hospital funding bid

REDUCED SERVICES: The University Hospital of Hartlepool
REDUCED SERVICES: The University Hospital of Hartlepool

CIVIC leaders will ask the Secretary of State for Health to launch a probe into the actions of hospital chiefs in a second letter in a matter of weeks.

Councillors voted to formally refer North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to Jeremy Hunt following anger at the removal of services from the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

It came to a head with the sudden suspension of the £300m Wynyard hospital to the trust failing to secure £100m of Government funding.

Hartlepool Borough Council will use its legal powers to officially ask the Secretary of State to look into the actions of the hospital trust.

Following a heated extraordinary meeting of the council last month, the council sent a three-page letter to Mr Hunt informing him of the council’s and the public’s concerns at the plug being pulled on Wynyard and requested a meeting.

But independent councillor Jonathan Brash said it did not go far enough and called for a formal referral to be made.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of that at the last full council meeting.

Coun Brash said: “The council has statutory powers to refer the foundation trust and other health bodies to the Secretary of State for him to investigate whether they haven’t done their job properly with regards to things like patient choice and clinical safety.

“After the extraordinary council meeting it was my understanding the council would use that power to make the Secretary of State formally look at and investigate (the trust).

“For whatever reason, the motion wasn’t interpreted that way and we ended up writing a letter asking for a meeting rather than using that statutory power.

“Now there will be a follow up letter effectively lodging a complaint about the organisation because we think it is failing to do its job properly.”

Coun Brash added: “Even if the Secretary of State turns round and says we don’t have grounds for a referral what have we lost?

“We need to show we will use every power at our disposal to represent the views of people in Hartlepool when it comes to moving services away.”

The hospital trust reiterated that changes to services have been made in the interests of safety and quality on the advice of their clinicians.

A trust spokesman said: “They are not to do with money, neither are they decisions made by any one individual in the trust.

“Medicine is advancing all the time and what might have been considered best practice 10 years ago would be considered risky and unsafe today.

“Centralising accident and emergency in 2011 and then critical care and emergency medicine last year happened because the senior doctors and nurses running those services told us they could no longer provide these services safely on two sites.”

The trust added it is working hard to provide services on people’s doorsteps including providing diagnostic tests and care in the home or as close to it as possible without having to be admitted to hospital

The spokesman added: “Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England’s five-year forward plan talks about many of the aims of our Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme to provide care in or close to people’s homes, develop a network of community facilities to support this and only admit people to hospital when absolutely essential.

“We want the best for our own families and everyone’s family in the whole area we serve.

“This can’t mean going backwards. It must mean looking forwards to see what our children and their children will need in future and working together to create a health service which meets those needs and of which we can be proud.”

It comes after the Mail launched the Bring Them Back campaign that has seen more than 12,000 people sign the petition, which will be presented to the Trust and NHS England to show the anger over services being switched to Stockton.

•Sign the petition here