Mayor - ‘Hospital decision could be just months away’

MY COLUMN last week made mention of the fact that quite a bit happened in Hartlepool while I was on my holidays recently and one of the most high profile happenings was the changes to the Accident and Emergency services delivered by the hospital.

It’s now just over three weeks since the A&E department closed at Holdforth Road and the minor injuries service was relocated to the One Life centre, in Park Road.

Changes to the way this service is delivered has understandably caused huge concern. But unfortunately some of this concern has manifested itself into a lot of rumour and misinformation being put about which has, in turn, caused much more concern and fear that might otherwise have been avoided.

Just to make things absolutely clear, if you injure yourself and are able to make your own way to get treatment, you now must go to the One Life centre in Park Road.

If your injury or illness requires an ambulance, nothing has changed whatsoever.

The paramedics will take you to the hospital that is most appropriate to give you the best treatment.

In most cases, this will be at the Emergency Assessment Unit, which remains at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Prior to the changes more than 40 per cent of patients going through A&E didn’t need to be there and that was clogging up the system and therefore causing the more needy patients to have to wait much longer and potentially putting lives at risk.

Anyone now arriving at the hospital in an ambulance gets straight into a bed and sees a doctor almost immediately.

Although I haven’t needed to use the One Life centre services as yet, I’m reliably informed by people who have that the service is quick, efficient and as good, if not better, than it was at the hospital.

As a father of three, if any of my children were to ever need the hospital services, I would want them to get the very best treatment available as quickly as possible.

I firmly believe that the services that have replaced the hospital’s A&E department are much better than they were before.

You only have to have the misfortune to need to go to A&E at Durham or Newcastle to realise how much of an improvement these changes are.

It is easy to sit here and extol the virtues of the changes.

I know it will be very difficult for some people to believe me especially given the recent publicity and why should they?

After all, I am by no means a medical expert. I’m not asking anyone to take my word for it, in fact I’m not even asking anyone to believe the people in suits who are running the hospital trust.

I am however, asking people to put their faith in the doctors, nurses and clinicians who are all saying this is the very best way to go.

It is confusing to me that everyone will put their utmost trust in their doctors when it comes to being ill.

They will disclose their deepest secrets to a doctor and believe everything they are told in return. People will put their lives in the hands of a surgeon if they need an operation.

The level of trust that most people have in people within the medical profession is probably among the strongest in any walk of life.

So I don’t really understand why people do not believe the clinicians when they are telling us that these changes to A&E are needed and for the better.

I, for one, do believe them and therefore wholeheartedly support the changes.

There is obviously a lot more to the debate around the future of the University Hospital of Hartlepool and most of it revolves around whether we will ever get a new hospital at Wynyard or will we in fact end up losing our hospital altogether.

I’ll make my position perfectly clear. I fully support the hospital trust in their endeavours to bring a new hospital to Hartlepool, based at Wynyard and I am 100 per cent convinced that it will happen.

Not only that, I am very confident that the Government and the Trust will be in a position to make some positive announcements about the new hospital over the next couple of months.

Everyone will be well aware of the history behind the new hospital and it has felt like taking one step forward and two steps back for a number of years.

It is always dangerous to make predictions where the Government are concerned but I am more confident than ever that they are close to underwriting the finance of the hospital development and we will see a positive announcement very soon.

The uncertainty around the future of the hospital needs clearing up once and for all and quickly.

For the sake of the town, we need the Government to resolve this issue quickly and I will be concentrating my energy in supporting the Trust to finally draw this episode to a conclusion.

Once the new hospital is announced, I hope all of the conspiracy theories and rumours will be finally put to bed.

Please don’t get me wrong. Even the announcement of a new hospital will not mean we are out of the woods as far as threats to services are concerned.

There are concerted efforts from some of the national health officials to regionalise and rationalise some hospital services.

There will be a huge fight to retain some services both in the current hospitals as well as the new one and the hospital trust will need everyone’s full support as they argue to retain Hartlepool’s services.

All of these battles will be fought in a climate of austerity and, just like the local authority, the hospital trust will have to make big savings from its current budgets.

It is absolutely vital that any cuts that are made do not put patients’ lives at risk and that Hartlepool retains as many of its services as possible until the new hospital is open.