I’m ready to quit over hospital

Coun Edna Wright pictured outside the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
Coun Edna Wright pictured outside the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

A LONG-SERVING councillor has vowed to quit if Hartlepool loses its hospital.

Bitter Edna Wright made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg in a bid to save services – but was bluntly told “the contents of your letter have been registered”.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley then told her the matter was not one for the Government and would have to be dealt with locally.

The Lib Dem councillor, who has served the Hart ward for 21 years, says she now feels “powerless” to influence anything and believes she may as well stand down from her civic role should the hospital close.

Coun Wright sent her correspondence to Whitehall before last week’s announcement that the A&E department at the University Hospital of Hartlepool was closing on August 2.

She now says she is “completely disillusioned” with the long-running saga.

Coun Wright said: “I have been really annoyed to see what has been happening with the hospital, and I was even more annoyed when I received these replies. Everything is still happening from the top down, and the people are not being listened to.

“The reply from Andrew Lansley said it was a matter to be dealt with locally. Locally, the buck gets passed the other way.

“What’s the point in asking for local reaction when there has already been a petition that 30,000 people felt strongly enough to sign?

“If we can’t save something as big and as important as a hospital, it is obvious we are just being walked all over. I would have to consider my position as a councillor if it were to shut.

“They have said A&E is closing, and if and when the rest of the hospital follows then I will call it a day.This is my 21st year in this position and I am seeing what we stand for, representing people, being eroded.

“I won’t say I’m losing my voice and I will continue to try and fight this, but I’m losing my faith. I’m completely disillusioned by the whole situation.”

Last week, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust revealed patients in Hartlepool and east Durham in need of emergency attention will be dealt with at the £20m One Life Hartlepool, in Park Road.

That came after the A&E department was declared unfit for purpose by an independent review by health professionals, academics and local councillors.

A&E is one of three round-the-clock health services in town that are being transferred to a newly-created urgent care centre at One Life.

Coun Wright had already sent her letters to the politicians before the announcement, but said her complaint is even more relevant after seeing the news and reading the reply from Mr Lansley’s office.

His reply said: “The government is committed to devolving power to local communities - to the people, patients, GPs and councils who are best placed to determine the nature of their local NHS services. It has pledged that, in future, all service changes must be led by clinicians and patients, not be driven from the top down.”

Coun Wright is refusing to give up the fight and is urging “a final push” to try and give the hospital a lifeline.

She added: “They say they are trying to hand power back to local communities.

“We have a petition with 30,000 names on it saying they don’t want the hospital to close and councillors have voiced their opinion on it but none of it is being listened to.

“It is still not closed as yet, which means it can be saved. I want people to write to all of these politicians and make a final push to make ourselves heard.”

A spokesperson for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “We’re committed to continually improving the quality of services and ensuring the patients have got the best possible chance of a good outcome.

“We’re still extremely optimistic about having a new hospital by 2016.

“In the meantime we are working on new ways of caring and treating people so we can look after them in their own homes, in GP surgeries or in new health centres such as One Life Hartlepool.”

l AN East Durham Rural Corridor Area Action Plan forum will be held tomorrow on the changes to emergency care services and health check clinics.

It will be held at Trimdon Station Community Centre, in Station Road, from 5pm to 7pm and people are encouraged to attend to learn about the changes, especially services which will be offered by One Life in Hartlepool.