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Protest gathers against hospital threat.

Angry residents are rallying together tonight to stage a protest against the possible closure of their local hospital.

The news that the University Hospital of North Tees or University Hospital of Hartlepool could close has sparked controversy across Teesside.

And residents of Hartlepool and East Durham are planning to take their concerns to the streets in a major protest against the plans.

Starting at 7pm outside the library on York Road, the rally is expected to attract hundreds of demonstrators.

Organiser John Bloom said: "We have handed out posters all over the town and the surrounding villages to ask people to show their support for the hospital.

"The reaction we have had from people is unanimous - we don't want to lose the hospital.

"I would hope we get hundreds along to the protest because, in response to the news, people are saying we need to do something about it."

As the Gazette reported last week, a review of services in the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS area looked at three options for the two hospitals.

The first proposal would be to create one hospital with all the services on one site or to create areas of specialism at both hospitals - meaning some patients would have to travel for treatment.

The third option would be to keep the two hospitals as they are now.

The NHS Trust said staff, patients and the public will be consulted and help shape the proposals for future change through workshops and local forums.

But Mr Bloom said: "I, and many other people, have little confidence in that consulting process.

"When Hartlepool closed its cancer treatment centre down they claimed to have made a full public consultation exercise but I am yet to find anyone who believes it was a good idea.

"I hope something might come out of this protest such as a new group focused on campaigning against the possible closure."

The controversial change was discussed at a meeting of the Tees Review's steering group, during a study of services for patients living in Stockton, Hartlepool and Easington.

A spokesman for County Durham and Tees Valley Strategic Health Authority, which is leading the review, said: "If change is needed, then the case has to be strong."

The next meeting of the Steering Group will be held on Friday, September 5.
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Title Annotation:Health
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2003
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