This is the response I have made formally to the consultation:
Having spoken to the Chief Executive at length, along with some of the clinical commissioners, I can certainly see the need for improved hospital services. I understand the drive for en-suite rooms and for larger theatre space and larger recovery rooms for instance.
And I can see the attraction in a new hospital with all the added benefits that would bring but I remain to be absolutely convinced that it is the only answer.
However, starting with the assumption that there does have to be a new hospital, I have major issues with the plans as they were proposed back in 2010.
1. I am very unhappy with Wynyard as the proposed site. I can see that it is physically central to the communities it strives to serve, but it is also inaccessible to the vast majority of those communities too in my view. I don’t rightly know how patients or their visitors, or workers, will get there.
I seek to represent patients at the southern end of the Trust area and many of them are already struggling with bus services. For instance I met a lady a few weeks ago who is a pensioner on £88 per week. Her husband has been in North Tees for 6 weeks already. She lives in Kirklevington where there is no bus service and it is already costing her a lot of money in taxis to Yarm for on-buses to the hospital. Sometimes she has to get a taxi all the way. Wynyard is about as far away as it is possible to be for her. Likewise for many Ingleby Barwick residents bus services to North Tees are long and tortuous. Just going to Stockton town centre can take 40 minutes on its own. Evening services are the ones first to be cut and yet that is when most visiting times are.
For car drivers many of them south of the river in Thornaby, Yarm, Ingleby and the villages will inevitably be using the A19 and that has been subject to endless road closures in the last year.
Here are just a few from only the last few weeks for instance.
It was closed on
27th November after a six vehicle crash on the flyover
28th November after a two vehicle crash on the flyover
and again on the same evening on the southbound carriageway, close to the A174 Parkway turn-off after a three vehicle collision.
Further delays were caused when another vehicle broke down on the northbound carriageway of the A19, close to the A174 Parkway, just before 6pm.
11th December at Ingleby Arncliffe, closing the A19 all the way to the Parkway after a crash
17th December on A19 at Thornaby/Acklam turn off after four vehicle crash.
25th December on A19 at Thornaby Acklam with a woman threatening to jump off the bridge
and again today near Osmotherley with long tail backs after a car crash up as far as the Parkway
And that is just a few that I have spotted. It seems almost every morning it is reported and the delays caused by the unexpected closure of Newport Bridge were very well documented. They went on for months.
Given that Wynyard will be accessible from the A19 first and foremost this is a big concern and would be a problem for all drivers, whether in a car, a bus or indeed an ambulance.
I know you have made efforts to put together a ten year transport plan but this is not a hospital with a ten year life span. I understand that the patient bus service between North Tees and James Cook is already under threat if it has not already actually been axed, so how are we going to manage if a new hospital is even further away? And what happens after those ten years?
I would like to see a detailed risk assessment about the long term plans for accessibility and transport. Also a detailed Equality Impact Assessment with full mitigation planning.
The point is that nobody can walk to Wynyard, nobody can just pop in, nobody can go on their bike either. It has to be reached by vehicle and we are simply not geared up for that. I would also like to reiterate my desire for free parking if this does go ahead at this location. Money should be found for extra land to make this possible if it does come to pass.
So my first conclusion is that if we are to have a new hospital, it should not be in Wynyard. I would have much less issue with a new hospital if it were located in Stockton.
2. My second concern is over PFI. I think any new hospital would need to be funded through a different mechanism. Whether that is through general taxation, through a Government long term infrastructure plan or some other means. I want to avoid PFI in future projects because I don’t believe it gives value for money.
3. A third area of concern is that we should all be clear about the actual need for a new hospital as opposed to a major upgrade.
We need to explore fully what improvements can be made to North Tees so that it becomes once again fit for purpose. I would like to see a piece of work undertaken which looks at which improvements would be the most desirable and have the biggest impact and then assess whether they can be physically and affordably carried out to the existing building or site. I note that the Trust will find £50m for an immediate programme of works.
Please can you say what those works will be and how far they will go to address the current needs?
How much more cash would we need to find to do everything you would want to do in Hardwick if you stayed there?
4. Fourthly I want to know how the building of a new hospital might affect any potential mergers with South Cleveland NHS Trust, or any other sub-regional provision of acute care. For instance, there are some voices within Health Care at the moment suggesting that a long-term view of hospital services might involve local A&Es with walk in centre and primary care also on offer within a neighbourhood, where specialised services might be provided on a wider geographical level. So one hospital might be a specialist for cancer, another for heart, another for children, another for maternity and so on. There would be savings in terms of senior executive positions with such a model so it seems foolish not to imagine that it might be suggested at some point in the current climate of cuts to public spending. If such a plan was to come to pass, how would we then again make changes to our plans, possibly mid build, or within say the first five or ten years of a new hospital so that it could be refocused.
Again I would like to see a detailed risk assessment and mitigation plan for this.
I realise there is Hartlepool to think about and the health of people there is important too but my first concern must be for the people of Stockton South.