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Controversial switch of emergency care hospital services begins next week
THE much-heralded and controversial switch of emergency medical care hospital services from Hartlepool to North Tees will take place next week.
The move - which centralises all emergency medical and critical care services at the University Hospital of North Tees and downgrades the University Hospital of Hartlepool - will start on Monday, October 7.
This means from that date very ill people living in Hartlepool, Peterlee, Easington and Sedgefield who are told by their GP they need to go to hospital will be referred to the University Hospital of North Tees and taken there, if needed, by ambulance.
When immediate emergency care is needed - for example if someone is choking, having chest pain, blacking out or losing blood - people should continue to ring 999 as normal.
Health bosses insist the changes are being made to ensure the safest possible services for local people and follow a public consultation exercise. But the downgrading of Hartlepool Hospital has been resisted by campaigners in the town.
The changes will take place over two weeks and it is expected that by October 16-17 there should be few patients being treated at the University Hospital of Hartlepool who need to be transferred to North Tees to continue their medical treatment.
This will depend on how many were admitted up to October 7 and the complexity of their needs. The critical care unit will be the last department to move.
People living in Hartlepool, Peterlee, Easington and Sedgefield who need planned surgery but who have other health conditions and may need critical care services after their operation will in future be referred to the University Hospital of North Tees.
Once patients have been treated at North Tees and are recovering from their illness or surgery, and do not need to have further investigations, they may be transferred to a new 30-bed unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool so that they can continue their recovery closer to home.
Julie Gillon, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Over the past few months we have been working with the local councils, transport providers, Healthwatch and the clinical commissioning groups to develop better support for people who don’t have direct bus services near to where they live.
"These arrangements will help not just those affected by changes to the emergency medical and critical care services but also patients using any services at both the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees and people visiting relatives and friends.”
In a bid to improve transport links for patients, visitors and staff, a free bus service between the two hospital sites is being increased.
Discounts have been negotiated with the trust's taxi provider, 23 Taxis, for patients and relatives travelling for appointments or visiting and additional car parking places at UHNT are being provided.
A volunteer driver scheme has also been set up for people who need help getting to appointments. The first group of volunteers are now trained. For further information about transport 01429-522550.
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