Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Weekend Read: 75% of patients will stay at Hexham A&E

I wanted to write about some of the reports about the future of Hexham General A&E. This is obviously a very important issue and one I have been working on for many years now.

Some of the reports and comments have suggested the department will close, or see very few patients in the future. The Trust has assured me this is entirely incorrect and that over 75% of patients will continue to be treated at Hexham. Given the recent reports, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust which runs Hexham General Hospital has also issued a public reassurance to the public over the future of our local NHS services once the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital opens next summer:

I myself only properly got into politics after I became involved in the fight to save the NHS hospital near my where my mum lived, which had helped save her life from cancer. It was a heck of a battle with the then government but in the end, against all the odds, we managed to keep that hospital open - so I understand how important these issue are.

On the specific issue of Hexham General Hospital I have had many conversations, and exchanged much correspondence with the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, seeking safeguards and reassurances for our local NHS services.

Many of you will also be aware of our long running campaign to protect Maternity Services at Hexham General for example, after similar services were lost from Berwick Hospital, and the successful completion of the brand new £4.6million NHS hospital in Haltwhistle. 

The decision for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust to open a Specialist Emergency Care Hospital was made in 2009, before I became the Member of Parliament for Hexham. The Specialist Emergency Care Hospital is the result of ten years of work led by the NHS Trust’s clinical teams.
On 23rd October 2009, NHS North of Tyne approved the £200 million proposals for a new Specialist Emergency Care Hospital. The plans also included the rebuilding of Haltwhistle hospital.
The approval followed a public consultation which was undertaken by Northumbria NHS Trust in February and March 2009.  The purpose of the consultation was to seek people’s views and opinions about the provision of emergency care. I believe the Trust also met with local Councillors, the County Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees, local involvement networks (LINks) and other local groups.

Currently around 17,000 patients attend Hexham’s accident and emergency (A&E) department every year. As I said above, some of the reports and comments have suggested the department will close or see very few patients in the future. The Trust has assured me in our long term discussions, previous meetings, and again this week, that this is not the case.

Even once the new Specialist Emergency Care Hospital opens, more than 75 per cent of current patients, around 13,000 patients, will continue to be treated at our local hospital in Hexham.
From summer 2015, only the most seriously ill patients, which is much smaller in number, will be treated at the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital.

The Trust has made it clear the new specialist emergency care service will be provided by some of the regions best consultants with expertise in a range of services. All of the doctors I have spoken to, and the Trust themselves, have assured me that the clinical research shows that seeing the right consultant for your condition, earlier in your care, improves your chances of survival in these emergency cases. The Trust also makes it clear the evidence shows that being seen in the right place by the right clinical consultant results in better outcomes, regardless of journey times, which is why the Specialist Emergency Care Hospital was given the go ahead in 2009.  

As you will be aware currently many patients travel to the RVI in Newcastle on a similar premise as the evidence above suggests.

Patients from our local area may still be taken by ambulance to the RVI in Newcastle, depending on clinical need, and this position will not change as a result of the new Specialist Emergency Care Hospital.

In my ongoing discussions with the Trust I have also been reassured that over the last few years the Trust have managed to develop some new ways of working which will actually help keep as many patients as possible at Hexham General Hospital when the new Specialist Emergency Care Hospital opens. The Trust’s most recent analysis last year showed they have now ensured many more local residents still have access A&E services at Hexham General Hospital compared to their original 2008 models.

I hope this helps clarify the position and sets out the some of the reassurances I have been able to secure from the Trust. This is an issue I have worked on for many years as your local MP and one I will be continuing to work on with Trust to ensure we continue to secure the maximum services possible at Hexham General.

The Trust’s medical director Mr David Evans has also issued a clarification to the Hexham Courant. I hope this response helps to clarify the issue. If there is anything I can do or if anyone would like to discuss this issue further please don’t hesitate to contact me on 02072197227  or