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HOSPITAL: Decline is continuing

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The plans to change the ‘urgent care’ provision at what is left of North Tyneside General Hospital (News Guardian, December 7), despite strong objections, is not a surprise to me.

Consider that just a short time ago it was a thriving hospital with a maternity unit and very busy A&E.

Then came the bright idea by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to build a hospital with a very large A&E in faraway Cramlington.

Crazy as it sounded at the time, the idea was to shut all the A&Es in Hexham, Wansbeck and North Tyneside. It remains a crazy idea in my opinion.

The Northumbria hospital was built despite strong public objection and serious concerns raised by 62 senior medical figures from the RVI.

Amazingly, the construction of the Cramlington hospital, and by virtue of that the shutting of the Rake Lane A&E, was supported by the two MPs for North Tyneside.

For those MPs now to ‘continue to fight to restore full service at Rake Lane’ regarding the so-called ‘urgent care’, which is a cuts and bruises level of care, is, I suggest, posturing to the public after the damage has been done.

South Tyneside has an A&E, Sunderland has an A&E, Gateshead has an A&E, Newcastle has an A&E.

North Tyneside does not have an A&E.

Building an A&E in Cramlington, then telling the residents of North Tyneside to go there does not make it our A&E.

It’s in Northumberland.

I believe that the situation we, as residents of North Tyneside, face is the dismantling of healthcare provision at Rake Lane hospital by the downgrading of services so that fewer people can use them.

Then, of course, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust can say that not enough people are utilising the provision and shut things down.

It is possible that if Rake Lane hospital was downgraded sufficiently Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust might sell off part, if not all, of the land it occupies for housing.

The hospital at Cramlington calls itself ‘specialist’.

Is it special as it is too small, or is it special because it can’t deal with head injuries of certain chest injuries?

Or is it special because it has been built in the wrong place?

The way forward from the present concerns regarding healthcare provision at North Tyneside General Hospital should start with the immediate reinstatement of A&E provision at Rake Lane and an independent investigation into how Northumbria Healthcare gained Government approval for what is, I suggest, an unfolding financial disaster.

The human cost is also an important consideration in this matter.

Steve Ratcliffe

Cullercoats