LETTER: Health - how they compare

AT the extraordinary Hartlepool Borough Council meeting, on March 12, a decision was made to discuss the creation and implementation of a local plan for health services in Hartlepool.

The council and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have agreed to work together on the plan.

This is an unexpected development, and I look forward to the outcome of their discussions.

One important point is worth noting in connection with the local plan.

Several consultant surgeons have told me that a catchment area of at least 300,000 people is needed for consultant-led A&E, maternity, paediatrics and complex surgery to be safely and competently delivered at a single centre of excellence.

Only then can the surgical teams be assured that they will carry out sufficient operations for them to maintain and improve their skills.

The Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine monitor the activities of surgeons up and down the country.

Those who aren’t carrying out a sufficient number of operations or aren’t achieving satisfactory outcomes, face the possibility of losing their accreditation.

That would mean they wouldn’t be allowed to continue to operate.

The population of Hartlepool and East Durham is only about 150,000.

Sharing complex surgery, consultant-led A&E, and so on, between the University Hospitals of North Tees and Hartlepool would result in the surgeons in Hartlepool failing to meet the requirements of the royal colleges.

Lord Darzi, of course, recommended that Hartlepool should become a centre of excellence for maternity and paediatric care, but not for consultant-led A&E.

Further careful consideration by senior consultants resulted in the decision being made that it was not appropriate to adopt Lord Darzi’s recommendation to have a centre of excellence for maternity and paediatrics in Hartlepool.

They confirmed that consultant-led A&E, complex surgery, paediatrics and maternity all had to be centralised at North Tees to make sure that the safety and quality of those services is maintained.

Simon Stevens, chief executive for NHS England, recently announced that 29 pilot schemes will soon be introduced in various parts of the country, with the objective of improving the way the NHS and local councils work together to deliver better care in the community.

Those pilot schemes will cover about 10 per cent of the population of England.

It will be interesting to see how the Hartlepool local plan compares with the proposals put forward by Simon Stevens.

Jim Allan,