On Tuesday this week, our accident-and-emergency unit at North Tyneside General Hospital was downgraded to a facility to deal with cuts and bruises or walk-in centre, with all critical cases being diverted to faraway Cramlington from then on.
That is bad enough, but how many people realise that Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust will divert blue-light emergencies to Cramlington from as far away as Berwick and the outer parts of rural Northumberland?
It is inconceivable that this will improve the outcomes of seriously-ill patients, and I predict that many people who would survive with more local immediate hospital medical care will have a higher risk of death as a result of what the trust has implemented with its emergency care hospital at Cramlington.
Please consider that the ambulance service appears to be struggling with poor response times to call-outs, with verifiable accounts of waits of an hour-and-a-half or longer for an ambulance to arrive at the scene.
This is very unlikely to improve, with ambulances being forced to travel much greater distances from all over Northumberland to Cramlington.
I am not alone in my concerns. On the News Guardian’s letters page on September 1, 2011, 62 senior medical figures from the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle signed a letter expressing their concerns regarding the then-proposed emergency care hospital at Cramlington.
I shall now regard the RVI in Newcastle as the nearest fully staffed A&E for the coast and plan accordingly. It is a lot quicker to drive to the RVI in Newcastle than Cramlington.
How did we get to this sorry state of affairs?
We have to look no further than Tony Blair’s New Labour government. A massive bureaucracy was imposed by New Labour on the NHS.
It is this bureaucracy that has imposed a new A&E structure upon us here for, I suggest, financial reasons.
Northumbria Healthcare Trust has incurred considerable debt to build this emergency care hospital at Cramlington, and the money to service that debt has to come from somewhere else in the budget.
Downgrading the existing A&Es throughout Northumberland and in North Tyneside appears to be the trust’s answer to that problem.