I’ve written previously about developments at North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Trust, which has attempted to bully staff into accepting the degradation of their pay and conditions, even going to far as to issue redundancy notices with a threat to sack any staff member who refuses – and yet still planning to cut jobs by 9% even if staff succumb to the extortion.
The Trust has previously failed to answer FOI requests within anything even vaguely resembling the statutory limit for doing so of 20 working days, the reason for which soon became obvious as news of the sacking threat came out.
Based on some information I eventually received from the Trust, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Trust over a month ago asking for the following information:
– the “outline business case in preparation of developing a new hospital”, to which the Trust’s Head of Communications had referred
– details of how the building of the new hospital is to be funded
– whether the planned new hospital will include all of the functions/services currently provided by the existing hospitals it will replace
Details of the funding of the new hospital came out in the media not long ago, revealing that pension fund money is likely to be used and that hospital funds will be used to provide a ‘steady return’ to investors. However, the Trust has continued its failure to respond legally to FOI requests and is now a week overdue with its response, in spite of a reminder on the day the response became overdue.
The question of the ‘business case’ for the new hospital, which is likely to contain details of possible private care provision, numbers of beds, types of services and impact on staff (the Trust has already admitted that well over 400 jobs will be lost when it moves to the new facility) are clearly of huge public interest to the people of the area.
Likewise with regard to the extent of services that the new hospital will provide. The original new hospital that was to replace the two at Hartlepool and at Norton, planned under the last Labour government, was to cost £460 million. Under the new plans, only £298 million will be spent, and it’s very obvious to any thinking observer that a hospital costing 35% less is not going to be able to provide the same services to the same level.
But NTH NHS Trust has failed to respond on either of the two key, open questions. Clearly, there is information that they would have to release that will shed even more light on the damage to be done to local people and to health staff who are already under enormous pressure, and which the Trust is hoping to delay or avoid putting into the public domain.