Hospital progress has been ‘rocky’

A HEALTH chief says people are generally pleased with the progress of One Life Hartlepool – but admits the road to a planned new hospital at Wynyard has been “rocky”.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Alan Foster made the admission during the annual general meeting of the trust board.

Mr Foster also revealed that Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham, whose constituency will be served by the proposed £300m hospital along with Hartlepool, Easington and Sedgefield, has confirmed there should be a decision this autumn from the Government regarding allocation of private funding for the site.

It comes after Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond revealed exclusively to the Mail that the trust will be making a positive announcement in the coming months.

Mr Foster said there had been “one or two obstacles” in the way of progress and there were challenges to come, including the effects of the Health Reform Bill and competition from health providers.

But he added: “The strategy is still the right one.

“With the challenges we may need to meander our course a bit to get there.

“We still have the goal of the new hospital, but it’s at the end. We still need to develop community services in the meantime.”

“We have consulted on the site and we have bought the land in such a way that we get the money back if the new hospital doesn’t go ahead. But that’s something I don’t want to contemplate, we strive towards a new hospital.

“We should get a decision this autumn in terms of the Department of Health and Treasury signing off the business case.

“The Treasury has applied new tests and repeatedly continued to ask for new information.

“Nevertheless, I’m confident we can satisfy them and hopefully that will be a major piece of news.

“The new hospital is still very much what we need in place.”

He said he hopes the new hospital will be the “best in the world, if anything, not just the region” that could attract people from outside its existing catchment area, including expanding into Durham and Darlington.

Mr Foster added: “It would be remiss for me not to mention One Life Hartlepool. It is never out of the news.

“We have still got some improvements to make, but nevertheless it’s an integrated care centre.

“Despite the adverse publicity at times, we know from facts and figures a lot of people are using the facility and are extremely pleased with the care they are receiving.”

Mr Foster said people with major trauma, critical illness and heart attacks would still need to go to hospital for the best care.

“We aspire our new hospital to get the best outcomes,” he added. “At the moment we are on the road. It feels like a rocky road because it is still the right strategy. But we need to up the pace if we can and move along all the more quickly.”

About 35 trust members attended the meeting yesterday at The Wynyard Rooms, Wynyard Business Park.

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