Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fresh attack on stroke unit plan

AFTER handing over a petition against the closure of a North-East stroke unit to NHS officials, critics of the plans launched a fresh broadside.
The 780-name petition from Darlington Stroke Club opposing the proposed closure of Darlington Memorial Hospital stroke unit, was handed in to officials from NHS County Durham and Darlington yesterday.
Earlier in the day, a copy of the petition was also presented to the leader of Darlington Borough Council, Councillor Bill Dixon.
The petition was launched in response to NHS County Durham and Darlington’s proposals to back plans to centralise stroke services at the University Hospital of North Durham and close the stroke unit at Darlington Memorial Hospital.
Because of medical staffing problems, the 24-hour acute stroke service for County Durham and Darlington currently alternates between the two hospitals.
NHS County Durham and Darlington has been running a public consultation exercise on the future of acute stroke services which ends tomorrow.
The PCT’s preferred option is to centralise acute stroke services on the Durham City hospital site on the grounds that it offers better all round facilities.
Coun Dixon said he thought the petition, put together in just three weeks, was “a magnificent response”
to the proposals.
The council leader claimed some of the statistics used by the primary care trust to justify centralising at Durham City were flawed and “shoddy” and Darlington would make a better location because of the greater density of population.
He said if Darlington was not chosen as the preferred site, he would want the consultation process repeated.
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said some of her constituents wondered whether Durham City was being favoured because consultants preferred to live in that area rather than in Darlington.
“The NHS should be run for the benefit of patients not for the convenience of consultants,” she added.
Gillian Peel, chief executive officer of Age UK Darlington, which hosts the Darlington Stroke Club, said: “I believe the consultation process is deeply flawed and very skewed in favour of Durham.”
Stroke survivor Sheila Adams, 76, from Darlington, who signed the petition, said: “I think it is a foregone conclusion – but it shouldn’t be.”
In accepting the petitition, PCT director David Gallagher said he was grateful for people taking the time to express their views.
“The consultation is about getting the views of as many people as possible. We take every view very seriously,” he added.
He stressed that where staff lived was not an issue.
A decision is expected to be taken at a PCT board meeting later in the autumn.
CAMPAIGNERS: Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon, right, receives a copy of the petition