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Statement on future of hospital services for North Tees and Hartlepool

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North Tees and Hartlepool Trust bosses have made a disappointing announcement today on the mothballing of plans for a new super hospital.

They have been put in an impossible position. Ever since the Coalition Government came into power in 2010 they have been playing games with the hospital. Andy Burnham formally agreed to build the new hospital in the last months of the Labour Government in 2010 whereas one of the first acts of the new Coalition Government was to abandon this and other projects.

There was clearly never any intention to build a new one and they should have been honest enough to say so at the outset. There have been endless, expensive reviews demanded by the Government over the last four years, each costing our NHS vital cash but never with any result.

It is very convenient that the Tories have forced the latest postponement with new demands from the Treasury for further reviews, just in time for the next General Election so it can become a campaign issue. It is a disgrace that local and national political interference and expediency has been allowed to dictate the future of health care in our area.

There has been wide spread support for the new hospital from GPs and health providers who know what their patients need.  At the moment the trust struggles to find or afford enough doctors and consultants to provide the range of specialist care, currently having to deliver two of everything on two sites. We have already seen how the haematology unit is under threat of closure for instance, as are the children’s nurseries. The Government is also consulting on closing the GP practice on the site in Hardwick. North Tees, whilst performing strongly, is clearly not offering everything it could.

A new state of the art hospital would have brought together the best doctors and nurses in the best possible facilities; fantastic patient support with ensuite single rooms instead of big wards, bigger and better operating theatres with enhanced recovery areas, the best of modern technology, better disabled facilities, dementia friendly, less walking down long corridors... the list is endless.

It’s not just that we have lost the chance for a new hospital because the Government won’t make a reasonably small investment, it’s all the vital jobs that we would have had across Teesside during the construction too.  Jobs we desperately need.

It is clear that what has concerned people is how they would get to Wynyard if the hospital moved there. This is quite understandable but the hospital was working on solutions and plans for how that could have been resolved to patients’ satisfaction.

I have personally secured a promise from the Trust that they would consider the possibility of being able to provide free or subsidised parking at the new hospital and they have been in talks with bus companies about putting on a full range of services right across the area. The hospital has also been looking at extending volunteer passenger transport for those on low incomes and a variety of other ideas. All of this would have been brought forward for the public to consider and help shape, at the time that any real hospital building plans came forward.

Patients, staff and visitors could have been reassured that they could confidently welcome a new hospital but they have not been given the chance to do so.

You simply cannot trust the Tories on the NHS.

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