Hundreds of people gathered to protest against the removal of NHS services from a Teesside hospital.
Over 800 people joined forces to take part in the Save Hartlepool Hospital Protest Walk.
The event was organised by Sue Little in response to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s decision to move services out of the University Hospital of Hartlepool to the trust’s other base – the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton.
Services lost in the town include the children’s ward, maternity and the A&E department, which closed in August 2011 after being declared unfit for purpose.
Now, people with minor injuries are seen at NHS centre One Life Hartlepool and those with more serious cases are taken to Stockton.
And with fears that the ‘super-hospital’ at Wynyard, which was due to replace both hospitals within the trust, will never get off the ground, residents fear the prospect of having North Tees as their local hospital.
Communities in East Durham, as far as Easington, are also affected as patients must travel to Stockton rather then the nearer Hartlepool.
No decision on any of the services is expected before a General Election.
“We’re all annoyed about what has happened to our hospital and the services being moved to Stockton,” said Sue, a mum-of-three from Seaton Carew. “This is why we are here.
“We want to send a message loud and clear to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust that we are not going to lie down on this matter. We want our services back.”
“The turn out has been fantastic,” she added. “I want the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to see this strength of feeling.”
Saturday’s walk started at Seaton Carew bus station and ended at the hospital.
There were dozens of stewards helping out, as well as a police presence and a support vehicle following the marchers.
Another supporter at the march was Keith Fisher, chair of the Save our Hospital group.
The 72-year-old said: “We are not saying we want services here instead of at Stockton – we want them at both.
“The first march that ever took place was to save our hospital and then we were protesting to keep our A&E. Now we are demanding we get out services back.”
Edna Wright, a former Liberal Democrat representative on Hartlepool Borough Council from 1991 until 2012, has been heavily involved in the hospital fight for many years.
She said: “I have been fighting against this move for 14 years when they first wanted to transfer cancer services to Middlesbrough.
“I said this hospital would go bit by bit, limb by limb and it has.
“North Tees can’t cope by itself and they are not admitting that – this hospital is being used behind closed doors and it needs to be kept open.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 Jan 2014