A&E to be retained at Darlington Memorial Hospital for foreseeable future

Darlington Memorial Hospital.

NHS bosses have confirmed key services such as accident and emergency will be retained for the foreseeable future at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

Campaigners said they were relieved proposals to set up two specialist emergency hospitals – The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, and either the Darlington Memorial or North Tees Hospital, in Stockton – had been dropped.

A spokeswoman for NHS North of England Commissioning Support said the plans, concerns about which surfaced in 2015 and also included major changes to maternity and paediatric services, had been abandoned after receiving “extremely helpful” feedback.

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The announcement follows concerns mounting over the future of services at Darlington Memorial Hospital, after months of silence from the NHS officials.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council on Wednesday heard Alan Foster, sustainability and transformation partnerships lead for the North East and North Cumbria, had told councillors in January the proposals had been dropped and had pledged to make a public statement in February.

The authority’s public health executive member Councillor Caroline Dickinson and health campaigner Councillor John Blackie told the meeting they feared the NHS was backtracking after repeated requests for confirmation of the decision received no response.

In a statement, Mr Foster stopped short of guaranteeing the services would always remain.

He said: “I’d like to reassure elected members that the position for the NHS has not changed and over the last few months NHS bodies have been working across organisational boundaries in order to respond to the valuable feedback that was gained from the Better Health Programme.

“Local clinicians are currently working across organisational boundaries to build consensus on the right models of hospital, community and primary care for the increasing number of people who have long-term health conditions and to support the delivery of local specialist emergency care where possible and appropriate.”

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said she believed NHS bosses had concluded cutting services at the hospital would be too difficult.

She said the SOS Darlington campaign, launched by midwife Lesley Brown in 2015 and supported by thousands of residents, had highlighted how passionately people from a wide area felt about retaining the services at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

She said: “It proves local campaigns do make a difference. Had we not made a stand changes would have happened over time, if not in a big bang way.

“The A&E should never have been put in that position, it was a stupid proposal. It should never have seen the light of day.”

Cllr Blackie added the NHS statement was “a little short of the mark”, as people wanted “unequivocal confirmation that these services will continue at all three sites for the foreseeable future”.

He said: “However, it does appear that following robust and continuing pressure from the public, local politicians including myself, and local MPs there is a determination within the NHS to maintain the three hospital model for 24/7 emergency care.”

The NHS North of England Commissioning Support spokeswoman said it remained focused on delivering a programme of transformation to improve the health outcomes of the populations it served.

Key elements of its revised plan to make NHS provision more robust in the region include a drive to get NHS organisations “to work better together, rather than competing against each other”, developing clinical networks and sharing expertise.

The spokeswoman said while there would be a drive to ensure NHS organisations collaborate on addressing staffing shortages, if any services became “vulnerable” due to a lack of staff, the situation could change and residents would be informed.

She added: “It remains that we must make services more robust – particularly given workforce pressures – and reduce unwarranted variations in the quality of care.

“In striving to achieve this, it is possible that some changes and improvements may be necessary to services currently provided from different hospital sites. However, please be assured that any such changes would be considered as part of the wider network of provision outlined above and, where applicable, to a formal process of engagement and consultation.

“While the Better Health Programme was initially driven by potential changes to hospital services at Darlington, Middlesbrough and Stockton, specifically for the smaller number of patients deemed to be high risk or requiring specialist emergency care, it was also influenced by an ambition to transform care so more people could stay safely independent at home rather than needing hospital-based care.

“More care outside hospital is now in place with more planned, to help ensure people will only need to go to hospital if their care cannot be provided safely in the community.”


  1. Hi. I have been running the Save A and E petition in Darlington. Obviously no one would be more pleased than I if this turns out to be the case. But I wouldn’t quite be ringing out the church bells in North Yorkshire just yet until we have an official report filed by the STP Strategic Transformation Partnership confirming what Alex Cunningham MP for Stockton North and the North Yorkshire County Council may have been told. Keep an eye on this. Thanks to everyone who signed our petition. Please press the button on the email you all received to let us stay in touch and keep you up to date with developments.

  2. Great News Darlington has always had A&E. If it was moved to James Cooke many people would die on the way to hospital. At last we have a great result thanks to the campaigning.

    • I wouldn’t be ringing out the church bells in North Yorkshire quite yet.

      Just to put the record straight

      The Labour MP for Stockton North Alex Cunningham and the Labour MP for Stockton South former GP Dr Paul Williams are claiming a great victory because Stockton North Tees A and E they say has been saved.
      Everyone in the Hartlepool A and E campaigns must feel like this is depressingly familiar. In fact nothing of the kind has happened. These two “Johnny Come Lately” characters who have only just joined the continuing battles against Whitehall to save hospital services, think having a private chat with those carrying out the review amounts to a victory.

      In fact it was Darlington Memorial A and E Whitehall wanted to shut. In a very familiar move Whitehall were playing off Stockton off against Darlington, this time. Whitehall manoeuvred the MP for Stockton South Dr Williams into saying Darlington A and E should be shut. Last time of course Stockton was played off against Hartlepool. Dari Taylor the former Labour MP for Stockton South said Hartlepool A and E should be shut then of course. Hartlepool was closed during a Labour government when the town had a Labour MP.

      Stockton only has an A and E at all today because James Wharton, the former Tory MP for Stockton South during the coalition government, had Dave Cameron cancel the new PFI hospital which was going to be built at Wynyard. The new PFI hospital never had an A and E suite in the plans at any stage. The construction of this new hospital was just a clever way of Whitehall closing Stockton’s A and E on the quiet. If Whitehall ever manage to shut Darlington’s Memorial Hospital A and E, Stockton will certainly be the very next place on the Whitehall hit list.

      As the Duke of Wellington said after Waterloo “if there is anything half as melancholy as a battle lost if must be a battle won”.

  3. I wouldn’t be ringing out the church bells in North Yorkshire quite yet.

    Just to put the record straight
    The Labour MP for Stockton North says he has had a chat with those carrying out the review and they have given him private assurances there will be no changes. Meanwhile the Labour MP for Stockton South has been calling for Darlington A and E to be closed instead of Stockton. he is keeping up a long Labour tradition here because the last Labour MP for Stockton South called for Hartlepool to be shut instead of Stockton in the not too distant past about 12 or 13 years ago.

  4. Have I been banned from this website?

    Why are none of my comments being published made in reply to William Leeman?

  5. Thank you for all your hard work Nigel and what a great result! It would have been catastrophic for us all, but more especially for those living as far away as Teesdale if closing A & E at Darlington had gone ahead. Power to the People!!!

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