Hartlepool hospital the 'number one issue' says Labour's by-election candidate Dr Paul Williams
Labour’s candidate for the forthcoming Hartlepool by-election says fighting for services at the town’s hospital would be his top priority if elected.
NHS doctor Paul Williams was announced as Labour’s candidate following the sudden resignation of Mike Hill earlier this week after previously campaigning to be the area’s new police and crime commissioner.
In his first interview with the media, he told the Mail that making sure the University Hospital of Hartlepool is at the centre of the country’s Covid recovery plans would be a top priority.
Dr Williams also said crime and anti-social behaviour is also high on his agenda as well as ensuring high skilled jobs and business investment in the town.
And the former MP for Stockton South admitted he still has things to learn about Hartlepool.
Dr Williams said: “The NHS is the number one issue, not only because of the local issues in Hartlepool, the loss of NHS services in the last ten years, the loss of the A&E department under the Tories in 2011.
"People in Hartlepool just want to see really decent quality services again at Hartlepool hospital.”
During the pandemic Dr Williams has worked at the hospital’s urgent care unit and at Covid clinics in the town.
He added the town’s hospital should be “at the centre” of the NHS’s Covid recovery plans.
Dr Williams previously led an organisation called Hartlepool and Stockton Health which brought all local doctors and GPs together in a new federation.
He said of Hartlepool: “It’s a friendly place. I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the people and the culture and the pride that people have in the town.
"It’s true I’ve got stuff to learn about the town and I’m looking forward to learning more.
"I’ve always enjoyed working and socialising in Hartlepool and if I get the chance to become its MP it would be the greatest possible honour.”
Dr Williams sought to reassure voters over his previous stance on Brexit and support for remaining in the EU saying he would work to see Hartlepool benefits from it.
The town had one of the highest leave votes in the country in the 2016 referendum at 69.9%.
He said: “Brexit is done. We have left the EU. We are not going back and I don’t want to go back.
"I just want to make a success of it now.”
Hartlepool is set to be hotly-contested once again and bookmakers have the Conservatives as the early favourites to oust Labour for the first time in more than 50 years.
But Dr Williams attacked their record saying: “They have consistently let Hartlepool down. They have let Hartlepool’s hospital down, the economy.
“Don’t forget they cut 500 police from Cleveland Police. I think the Conservatives are trying to hide from their record and it’s my job to expose it.”
He added: “Labour have got a proud record in Hartlepool. We haven’t always done everything right in the past but we’re under new leadership.
"We’re listening really, really carefully to what people have to say.
"We’re really optimistic and enthusiastic that we have got a good programme that puts Hartlepool people first and will deliver for the town.”