IN NEWCASTLE, proposals have been put forward to close the General Hospital (NGH) and build a Tesco store on the site. If these plans go ahead it will mean axing the hospital's accident and emergency department, cancer and children's services. The response of local people is 'we want our hospital not another bloody Tesco store!'
The plans are being put forward as a foregone conclusion as building work has already started at the city's Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital - but when was the consultation on the impact this would have on services at the NGH?
Alongside worries regarding the closure of the hospital many local people are also worried about the impact on the variety of small businesses in the locality.
For many local residents in Newcastle the first they heard of proposals to close the NGH was when glossy Tesco/NHS literature came through their door inviting them to a public exhibition - everyone we spoke to said they didn't receive the invite until the final days of the exhibition.
To sugar the pill of closing the hospital the Tesco/NHS leaflet's proposals also include a walk-in medical care centre, a science park and an institute for ageing and health.
We went along to the exhibition which was described as an 'informal consultation'. Alongside other local residents we wanted to know who would own the buildings of the institute and science park, but MDA a public relations company who were running the exhibition told us: "It's not entirely clear who will own the buildings." Then added it would 'probably be Tesco'.
Asked whether all NHS staff would be redeployed MDA public relations consultants admitted they didn't have that much information.
MDA public relations also declined to tell us how much they were being paid for not having all the information. However at nearby Sunderland's General Hospital business consultants, PriceWaterhouseCoopers received £250,000 for their part in a 'cost cutting exercise' to axe 500 jobs.
The response in Newcastle to the proposed demolition of the General Hospital and building of a Tesco store has been overwhelming. People queued to sign our petition opposing the plans and agreed a united campaign including hospital staff, service users and the local community is needed.