Next Tuesday, I shall be meeting with Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, to discuss the future of hospital services in Hartlepool.
I am pleased that a cross-party delegation of councillors from Hartlepool Borough Council will also be attending.
I think this is important to emphasise both the strength of feeling as well as having a united front for the town.
I have several aims for the meeting. First, I will present the Secretary of State with the petition from the Hartlepool Mail’s “Bring them back” campaign.
I want to thank everybody who signed the petition and also thank the local paper for organising this campaign. I hope that this will provide to the Minister a sense of the strength of feeling on this matter.
Secondly, and most importantly, the meeting will be the best opportunity for councillors and myself to push the Secretary of State on what can be done to return hospital services back to the town.
In the light of Wynyard not going ahead and the publication on the same day of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, which stated what the National Health Service would look like in the future, there is scope to ensure that the district general hospital model like in Hartlepool is able to succeed.
I will say to the Secretary of State that hospital services cannot and should not be centralised at North Tees.
I have consistently said that the location is grossly inappropriate for the people of Hartlepool. Both patients and visitors find it difficult to travel to.
The notion that all hospital services in our area can be placed at North Tees is not acceptable.
In the light of this, I will ask the Secretary of State to ensure that work takes place between his Department, the local NHS Trust, the Clinical Commissioning Group and Hartlepool Borough Council to act collectively to ensure that services are returned.
I believe that the Secretary of State might state in the meeting that all these issues are matters for the local Trust.
But I think that there is an important point here which will need to be addressed.
Provision of health services can only be done with the wishes of local communities.
I can’t believe there are many people in Hartlepool and South East Durham who would agree to the notion that all services should be placed at North Tees.
Two opposing camps – the Trust on the one hand saying that no reversal will take place, with the people of Hartlepool on the other – is not the means by which health services can be provided.
I am going to ask the Secretary of State what he will do to ensure that the Trust listens to the concerns of the town.
I am also going to ask about the wider point of integration of services throughout health and social care.
Everybody I know, including me, values and relies upon the NHS.
We all believe that the clinical staff provide a superb caring and professional job for the people of the country. But I also think that fragmentation of services, whether it is a lack of join up between GPs and hospital services, ambulance provision and location of care and hospital admissions and social services, don’t provide that thorough integrated service as it could.
How do we work together to ensure that the town has integrated and suitable areas of care.
I’m not pretending that the meeting on Tuesday will provide all the answers, nor that matters will be resolved quickly.
But the cross-party approais ch will provide an important milestone to air these issues on behalf of the people of Hartlepool to ensure that services are returned back to the town.