Medical director for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust Dr David Emerton, who is also a consultant in accident and emergency, said:
We totally respect people’s right to protest about issues which concern them. However we would like to emphasise that the centralisation of services at the University Hospital of North Tees was driven by our clinicians, is fully supported by our commissioners and was done purely for reasons of safety and quality.
What was acceptable in terms of clinical practice in the health service 10 or even five years ago is no longer acceptable because medicine has moved on. We have to ensure our services can meet the higher standards now expected.
Hundreds of campaigners have gathered in protest against the reduction of services at Hartlepool General Hospital.
It forms part of a long-running hospital saga, in which key services were transferred to Stockton and a proposed new hospital at Wynyard was delayed.
The protesters are marching from Seaton Carew to Hartlepool this morning.
A man has told how he kicked a live Second World War hand grenade he found on a beach in Hartlepool, before picking it up and putting it in his loader.
It was only after he had another look at it that John O'Neill realised the object was a grenade that had been buried in the sand at Seaton Carew.
He believed the pin was still inside, but because it was so rusty, it was hard to tell.
Mr O'Neill, who works for Hartlepool Borough Council, told the Hartlepool Mail:
He contacted his bosses who called in bomb disposal experts and after the beach was cordoned off, they carried out a controlled explosion.
"I was doing a general litter pick and I came across what I thought was a piece of metal and I gave it a kick. I turned it over and it looked interesting."
Bomb disposals experts have detonated a WWII grenade on the beach at Seaton Carew.
The device was found by a council worker this morning.
Cleveland Police are investigating after beach cleaners discovered what could be a grenade at Seaton Carew beach.
Bomb disposal teams from Catterick Garrison are on the way to the scene.
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Firefighters are dealing with a blaze in Seaton Carew after a large coal heap went up in flames.
Three fire engines from Stranton Station rushed to Seaton after receiving several calls reporting the blaze, near to the Mayfair Centre.
The fire started around eleven o'clock this morning and fire officers were still on site damping down flames just before one o'clock.
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Work will begin on the second phase of a multi-million pound coastal defence project in Hartlepool.
More than £1.5m has already been spent strengthening defences at Seaton Carew seafront. Now Hartlepool council has secured £3.5m for work on an additional 700m stretch of coastline. It will help to protect 400 seaside homes.