Hospital To Shut Despite PM’s Vow

A hospital is set to close despite a pre-election promise from the Prime Minister that there was “no question” of it being shut down. A review of health services in Teesside has recommended that two hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton should close and be replaced with a single “super-hospital”.

{mosimage}The proposal, backed by the Health Secretary, has caused anger in Hartlepool, where a campaign has been running since rumours surfaced that the town’s popular hospital could close. In the 2004 by-election, called when Peter Mandelson stepped down, Hartlepool’s hospital was a key issue during the campaigning.

In an interview with the Hartlepool Mail newspaper on September 9 that year, Tony Blair said: “There is no question of the hospital closing or being run down. I hope people understand there has never been any question of the hospital closing. We are there to improve it and not run it down.”

The then Health Secretary John Reid also backed Hartlepool Hospital to remain open. Mr Mandelson’s successor as Labour candidate, Iain Wright, went on to retain the seat for the party, with the Liberal Democrat’s Jody Dunn 2,000 votes behind. He held the seat, with an increased majority, at the 2005 General Election.

Between October and December 2006, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel looked at services provided by Hartlepool General Hospital and Stockton’s North Tees General Hospital. It recommended that services should be provided by one hospital, accessible to people across North Teesside and South Durham, including patients living in the Prime Minister’s Sedgefield constituency. The new hospital could be built within four years.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “It is understandable that people have concerns when services change, but a local independent panel has made these recommendations to provide better, higher quality and safer services for local people than they receive at the moment.

“The end result will be a new hospital that will provide improved care for the people of Hartlepool and that is the sole reason for these changes.”