The future of health and hospital services in Hartlepool dominated a public presentation by town MP Iain Wright.
Mr Wright outlined the various challenges facing the town and answered questions from members of the public at yesterday’s Joint North and South Neighbourhood Forum at Hartlepool Civic Centre.
We are going to step up a gear to put pressure on the Trust to justify decisions and bring services backIain Wright
A large part of the event centred on the University Hospital of Hartlepool following a decision by managers to axe licensed fertility services from the end of March.
Relations between North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and Hartlepool Borough Council hit a new low after trust leaders failed to attend a council scrutiny meeting, as required, last Friday.
Mr Wright called for a ‘united front’ between himself, the council and the public to restore services to the hospital.
“At the moment I don’t think they are listening to our concerns,” he said. “I know this is an important issue affecting our town and we are going to step up a gear to put pressure on the trust to justify decisions and bring services back.”
Calling for unity, he said: “I know politics is all about decisions and different view points but given the challenges we face externally and from the trust why isn’t it the town can be united and this council chamber?”
Councillors asked how the trust could be made more accountable.
Mr Wright said the clinical commissioning group, which pays for health services, should do more to make sure services are provided in Hartlepool, looking to providers other than the hospital trust if necessary.
It was suggested that could include the provision of services for vulnerable adults and children which has previously been given as a reason why the council can not formally withdraw co-operation with the trust in protest at its actions.
Mr Wright also encouraged people to become members of the foundation trust to have a greater say on what it does.
But he faced criticism from hospital campaigner Keith Fisher, who said the loss of key services – including accident and emergency in 2011 – happened “on his watch”.
Mr Fisher said he had no confidence in the MP, adding: “He has let us down forever.”
Mr Wright also talked about his work in trying to get the Government to treat Hartlepool as a “special case” due to an annual £3.9million cut in business rates to the council from the power station.
And he said richer authorities should redistribute some of their wealth to areas in the north, hit by local government funding cuts including Hartlepool.