Your hospital questions answered

University Hospital of Hartlepool
University Hospital of Hartlepool

HEALTH bosses have responded to questions put forward by residents concerned by changes being made at Hartlepool’s hospital.

The long-running saga over the future of the University Hospital of Hartlepool has sparked a public outcry in recent weeks, with protestors marching through the streets in a failed bid to try and save the accident and emergency department, which controversially closed in August.

There was more bad feeling when a council meeting with chiefs from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust was scrapped at the last-minute for health and safety reasons when large crowds turned up at the civic centre, and there was further controversy when chief executive Alan Foster and chairman Paul Garvin were both unable to attend the rearranged meeting at Hartlepool College of Further Education in September.

But Mr Foster and Mr Garvin vowed to answer any questions from residents if they forwarded their concerns in written form.

The trust finally received the questions last week after an administration mix-up at Hartlepool Borough Council resulted in a delay in the paperwork being sent out from the civic centre.

The questions were submitted before Mr Foster claimed in a live radio interview last week that “the majority” of people would rather see a new hospital built at Wynyard rather than keep open the existing site at Holdforth Road.

He made his comments after revealing that £40m would have to be slashed from the Trust’s budget over the next three years, with jobs and services all under threat.

Mr Foster insisted the site will close with services either transferred to the proposed £300m hospital at Wynyard or be amalgamated at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.

A Mail vote the following day resulted in 98 per cent of readers who participated, voting in favour of keeping a hospital in Hartlepool rather than building a new one.

Some 2,809 people registered their vote by phone, text and on our Facebook page.

Then, in a fresh twist, bosses at NHS Hartlepool, which commissions services, stressed that no decisions have yet been taken on the future of the Hartlepool hospital and said any changes on the scale reported would require a comprehensive public consultation across Hartlepool, Stockton and Durham.

As the controversy continues, the Mail can today publish the responses to 22 queries put forward at the meeting at the Stockton Street-based college.

The answers have also been sent back to Hartlepool Borough Council, as well as the individuals who sent the questions and left a postal or email address.

Mr Foster said: “I have today written to all those who left their contact details, but I thought it was important that everyone could have an opportunity to see what had been asked and how we responded.

“One or two of the questions have been passed to our commissioners for a response because we were not able to answer them ourselves.”

0 per cent of the PFI deals have nearly bankrupted the trusts that entered into them, why does this trust think it can make it work?

A: TODAY’S private finance deals are different to the ones originally agreed when PFI was first introduced well over 10 years ago. The cost has to be weighed up against the cost of running two hospitals whose maintenance costs continue to grow as the buildings age.

In many ways a PFI scheme is similar to taking out a mortgage to buy your own house. The trust cannot afford NOT to have a new hospital. It is part of the solution, not the problem.

Q: WHY have services moved to North Tees instead of Hartlepool?

A: SOME services have moved to the University Hospital of North Tees (namely emergency surgery and orthopaedics, children’s inpatient services and consultant-led maternity services) while some services have been centralised at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, namely planned surgery and orthopaedics.

These changes were made as part of the recommendations from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel of 2006.

However the financial situation we find ourselves in will mean we have to bring more services together to ensure they remain safe and affordable.

We will be engaging with patient representatives on this.

Q: AS there are only two additional trauma beds at North Tees A&E and the trauma cases presenting to A&E have tripled, who is monitoring the overload for safe staffing levels?

A: THE function of accident and emergency at the University Hospital of North Tees changed in December 2007 following the recommendation of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (an independent panel of experts who advise the Secretary of State for Health on how services should be delivered).

From this date seriously injured adults from the whole area served by the trust were brought to the University Hospital of North Tees and the department was staffed appropriately to deal with this.

Standards in the treatment and care of the seriously injured are, quite rightly, being raised all the time to give patients the very best chance of survival and the Trust is currently responding the latest instructions from the Department of Health on this issue.

Q: WHAT is the patient to doctor statistical ratio?

A: THERE is no specific doctor to patient ratio for patients. Patients are treated in many different clinics, diagnostic departments and wards and the numbers vary on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis.

Q: HOW many ambulances are directed to around the rear of A&E (at Hartlepool) – as witnessed?

A: WITHOUT having any more information we believe it is possible that a crew was going to haematology, the Butterwick hospice or the mortuary. The other possibility is that they weren’t leaving a patient but picking one up.

Q: WHAT year was the greenhouse (One Life Hartlepool) in Park Road put on the table because the A&E closure was on the plans then and not March?

A: THIS question has been passed to the commissioners for a response. They are currently seeking clarity on the question before responding.

Q: AS we live in a democracy, why are 100,000 people being ignored by an unelected group instead of having a referendum to maintain the Hartlepool Hospital, including A&E services?

A: THE trust’s duty is to provide the safest care possible for its patients. The Hartlepool Health Scrutiny Committee and North East Strategic Health Authority (who carried out an independent review of accident and emergency services) recommended that accident and emergency was closed as soon as possible and alternative arrangements put in place because, after hearing evidence from a number of health professionals and other contributors, they realised that, try as they might, the Trust had been unable to staff the unit safely at night.

Q: WHY didn’t you spend mainly on Central Hospital instead of the One Life Centre?

A: THE One Life Centre was built by NHS Hartlepool, not the hospital trust, however, Government policy is about moving care out of hospitals and into people’s homes or community facilities such as One Life Hartlepool.

The aim of this is to try and keep people healthy and intervene early in someone’s condition or illness to prevent them needing to go into hospital. This is better for patients and there are plenty of good examples where this type of care is improving people’s lives.

This is why the commissioners of health care decided that a community facility like One Life Hartlepool was needed in the town.

Q: WHY, apparently, wasn’t it possible for the chairman and the chief executive to delegate junior staff to appear at this meeting on their behalf bearing material with which to answer questions?

A: THE chairman had offered to attend a meeting of the council and had attended an earlier meeting that was cancelled on the day. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the meeting on September 29 because of a previous engagement. In the circumstances, he did not feel it was appropriate for other members of staff to attend.

Q: JUDGING by recent reports in the national media, is it possible that the local health authority may not even exist if and when the new hospital at Wynyard is opened due to the Government’s reorganisation of local Health Authorities and Trusts?

A: UNDER the health reforms the primary care trusts and the strategic health authorities will cease to exist but this trust will exist and it is the trust which will take forward the new hospital, with the support of GPs who will soon be responsible for commissioning hospital services.

Q: COULD you confirm that a doctor was put in place at One Life on the weekend following the Extraordinary Council meeting held on September 8?

A: THE minor injuries unit at One Life Hartlepool has always been planned to be staffed with emergency nurse practitioners. However it was decided that, during its initial few months of working, that there would be a doctor present for 12 hours a day seven days a week (9am-9pm). This has happened since it opened on August 2, 2011.

There was no change to the minor injuries unit medical staffing on or after September 8. There is also a consultant clinic for review of minor injuries patients three mornings a week.

The need for the medical staffing is currently being reviewed.

It should be noted that we only provide the minor injuries unit. The walk in service (which is open 8am-8pm) is run by Assura and a doctor is present during those hours in the walk in centre. The out of hours service is provided by Northern Doctors.

Between 50 and 70 people attend the minor injuries service every day and people are very pleased with the service they receive from the minor injuries staff who are all employed by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Q: IF a doctor could be provided so quickly for One Life, why were the trust unable to get one for our A&E dept?

A: THE doctors who have been working in the department are present in One Life Hartlepool during the day. The issue at accident and emergency at the University Hospital of Hartlepool was staffing the service safely overnight.

Q: HOW much is this additional medical cover costing?

A: ADDITIONAL medical cover is costing £180,000 a year. The need for this additional medical cover now the new arrangements have bedded in is being reviewed.

Q: WHAT gives this hospital trust the right to ask for PFI and put a burden on this town for the next 30 years without asking for a referendum? Wrong.

A: THE NHS Act of Parliament gives the Trust both power and responsibility to ensure that healthcare is provided both now and in the future. This includes ensuring our buildings are fit for purpose and able to meet the challenges and changing healthcare needs of the future.

Any Trust can submit a business case for a new hospital if it demonstrates there is an overriding health need. The decision to approve the scheme and any PFI funding will be taken by the Department of Health and Treasury.

Q: THE Tees Valley and Durham Community Unit provided excellent services for the deaf community through Craig Jones. The deaf community are annoyed that this service provision has been changed.

The new contract with Everyday Language Solutions has many problems including people who are unable to choose their interpreter which is particularly important when attending doctors’ appointments. Also some of the interpreters are not suitably qualified and are not aware of medical terms.

This is extremely embarrassing and the deaf community would like the services previously provided by Craig Jones reinstating.

This complaint was submitted on behalf of many members of the deaf community who are afraid and do not have the confidence to voice their concerns.

A: NHS Tees has contracts in place with three companies for the provision of interpretation and translation services, including British Sign Language (BSL). These companies provide services for patients visiting independent contractors, including GPs and dentists.

Staff at the practice can contact any of the three providers to book an interpreter for a patient, and all three providers have confirmed that their interpreters are qualified to BSL level 4.

We have also agreed with the providers that patients may contact them directly to make an appointment, should they prefer, and they have confirmed that patients may specify a particular interpreter, when a booking is made. The three companies commissioned by NHS Tees to provide interpreting and translation services are Everyday Language Solutions, Interpreting Line and Interpreting Plus.

Q: WHY in the eight years this farce has gone on did you not think of asking the people?

A: WE did ask the people on many occasions with the consultations we held on momentum. At that time there was overwhelming support.

Q: WHO gave the trust carte blanche over the hospital?

A: THE new hospital was part of the momentum consultation.

Q: WERE the trust in collusion with any other persons?

A: No.

Q: WHY can’t the trust meet the people?

A: THE Trust offered to meet the people but this meeting was arranged for a time and date when the chairman and chief executive were unable to attend due to a long-standing prior engagement.

The trust regularly meets councillors and patient representatives and it also holds regular meetings for its NHS Foundation Trust members which are open to the public. These meetings are publicised in the press.

Q: DOES the trust believe in the democratic right of all people?

A: Yes.