WILLO TALK: Hospital fight has pulled Hartlepool together

REDUCED SERVICES: The University Hospital of Hartlepool
REDUCED SERVICES: The University Hospital of Hartlepool

IT’S always tricky writing a column at the end of the year.

I never know whether to look back on the last 12 months, or look ahead to the next 12 months.

Or do a bit of both.

This time last year, I opted for the crystal ball-style column, trying to predict what was going to happen in 2014.

I didn’t get much right if I’m honest, though I did say that Jacksons Landing would still be standing empty.

That was always going to be a safe bet though, so I’m not looking for any credit for that one.

There have been some memorable moments in Hartlepool over the last year, with the Bombardment commemoration still fresh in the memory.

Savannah Marshall won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games, the town turned out in force for the Miles for Men and Race for Life events and youngsters across Hartlepool once again excelled in their exams with some fantastic sets of results.

But the thing which will stick in my mind from 2014 will be the way the town has pulled together in the hospital fight.

2014 was the year that everyone decided they had had enough.

They were sick of hearing about Wynyard, sick of hearing about funding delays and sick of having the carrot of a new hospital dangled in front of them while the exisiting facility was stripped to pieces.

There had been protests before, let’s not forget the Save Our Hospital group which was set up when services were first rumoured to be heading down the A19 to North Tees.

But this was a fresh fight, and people have joined forces to passionately and respectfully show the decision-makers they’re not happy.

The health bosses tell us they can’t move services back to Hartlepool.

We’ve believed them in the past, we’ve taken their word for it.

Not any more though. The turnout at the Town Hall showed the strength of feeling, as did the pile of 12,000 petitions that have poured into the Mail office.

There will be a march from Seaton Carew to the hospital on January 10 with more than 400 people expected to take part.

This fight isn’t going to go away, and as we head out of 2014 into 2015, I truly hope that this will be the year that people are finally listened to.

The last thing this town needs is another big empty building standing gathering dust.

Jacksons Landing, anyone?