A fully fit for purpose hospital which has serviced it’s local community since the 1930’s is about to lose its Accident and Emergency Department. The reason being that due to difficulties in recruiting Consultants the service has become ‘unsafe’ and so patients will have to go to the nearest A&E, which is miles away, with an Urgent Care service taking its place instead. If this sounds familiar it should do because the same reasons were given in 2011 when Hartlepool lost its A&E, but this time we’re talking about the Friarage Hospital in the Tory heartland of Northallerton. From my union days I know the hospital and staff there very well and they are as passionately against this move as are the people yet, eight years on from Hartlepool, the same old scenario is being played out by the NHS to cut vital services, this time in North Yorkshire. The legacy, I’m sure, will be anger and the feeling that it is the death knell of a perfectly good local hospital.  I am therefore proud that, having been through that experience, Hartlepool folk from all backgrounds (political or otherwise) have fought to defend, stabilise and bring back services to Holdforth Road. We have a fight on our hands but we are certainly getting there and our hospital is nowhere near dead.

Next to the hospital, of course, is the wonderful Alice House Hospice serving the communities of Hartlepool and East Durham. It really is a centre of excellence for caring for people with life limiting illnesses and deserves everyone’s support. On the April 28th they are running a fundraising event called the ‘Memory Stroll’ which starts at the Heugh Battery on the Headland and ends in Hartlepool. Walkers are encouraged to raise sponsorship monies and registration forms can be obtained from the Hospice itself and the Co-op Funeralcare, Strathmore House, Stockton Road.  It promises to be an excellent event and an informative stroll down memory lane.

Also starting from the Heugh Battery on Sunday 19th May, will be the great ‘Tommy to Tommy’ walk organised by local people responding to the museum’s bid to raise £5,000 to pay outstanding bills and help secure its future. The sponsored walk will be from the Tommy silhouette at the Battery to the Tommy Statue in Seaham and I have no doubt will draw a lot of support. The museum is one of our most popular tourist attractions run by volunteers and the site of the only WW1 battlefield in the country. It is so important to our heritage and history that it simply deserves to be fully incorporated into the Council’s tourism offer; including being included on all road signs indicating Hartlepool visitor attractions on our main highways and not just at the gates of the Headland. As the Town proudly pushes back against all the negativity produced by the likes of Channel Four’s ‘Skint Britain’, and with lots of regeneration going on in the Town to draw visitors in, it’s about time the Battery shared equal footing with all of our other wonderful attractions and gets the backing it deserves to ensure its long term survival.

And on the subject of regeneration,  it’s nice to see the Cameron’s Brewery Visitor Centre on the A689, Stockton Road, get a lick of paint and renamed the ‘Anchor Bar and Bottle Shop’. It goes without saying that you can enjoy a great pint of Strongarm there but the historical brewery exhibition there is truly a hidden gem and well worth a visit, as is the twelfth Century Stranton Church literally just around the corner.

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