Politicians unite to try and save threatened neonatal unit
Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North and his Conservative neighbour in Stockton South, James Wharton MP, agree that the proposal is ill-thought through and the independent review has failed to make the clinical case for change.
However, a North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust which runs the unit said its priority was taking care of vulnerable babies and no decision had been taken.
The proposal, which would see the services transferred from North Tees to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, first came to light when a report was tabled at a meeting of the North East Joint Health Scrutiny Committee last month and has led to a public outcry.
More than 300 babies were treated in the North Tees Unit in the last year and now future parents face the additional stress and anxiety of having to travel, in some cases, much greater distances to access the services their sick babies need.
The two MPs are joining local councillors, health professionals and others, in pressing NHS England to re-examine the whole premise for the proposal outlining clearly the clinical case for change and the impact it will have on the communities across the Stockton and Hartlepool Borough and South-East Durham who rely on the special unit.
Alex Cunningham said: “Parents and expectant parents across the area are rightly anxious about this proposal and it is important that politicians, the health community and the public work together, demand and get the answers to their questions.
“I’m particularly concerned that we could lose a significant service at North Tees and the potential for a knock on effect on other pediatric and women’s services which could follow them.
“It is also a worry that the proposal means moving a critical service away a good high performing hospital like North Tees to another which is facing performance problems which have necessitated external interventions.”
James Wharton added: “NHS England is right to always look at how overall care can be improved, but on this occasion these proposals lack the real evidence base. I am not convinced this would improve care, a view shared by Alex and by the North Tees and Hartlepool Trust.
They need to look again and ensure they can justify any changes and that change will only take place where they can be confident it will lead to a better service. I do not want to see any loss of services at North Tees, it is an important local health asset.”
A spokeswoman for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “We’re very proud of our neonatal services and our priority is to take the best possible care of these tiny and vulnerable babies. We know how important it is to local people. What we’re hearing about are initial proposals; nothing has been agreed.”