Campaigners desperate for public meeting on future of hospital

Northumberland Gazette latest
Northumberland Gazette latest

Mass demonstrations could be held at public consultation events by campaigners fighting a controversial decision to temporarily close a village hospital’s inpatient ward.

And objectors fear the facility at Rothbury Community Hospital will be lost permanently after leaked minutes from a staff meeting quote that the chances of it reopening to inpatients appeared ‘very slim’.

However, those behind the decision have reiterated that no permanent decision has been taken about the future of inpatient services.

At the start of the month Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) dropped the bombshell news that the inpatient ward would be closed for three months. This decision will be reviewed in November.

The decision-makers say this is due to a fall in patient numbers. All other services at the hospital will continue as normal.

The Trust and the CCG have organised three drop-in sessions for people to have their say and talk to NHS staff. These take place in the group room at Rothbury Community Hospital on Wednesday, September 28, 5pm to 8pm; Wednesday, October 5, 4pm to 6pm; and Wednesday, October 12, 4.30pm to 6.30pm. Email questions or feedback to foundation@northumbria.nhs.uk
The Trust’s Dr Jeremy Rushmer said: “We are keen to hear from local people and we will work with all partners to discuss how we can ensure the future sustainability of local services in Rothbury.”

But Rothbury Coun Steven Bridgett says the drop-in sessions are not enough. He said: “This is not what the community wants. I have repeatedly asked the Trust and the CCG to attend a public meeting in Rothbury, at a central location, that is accessible to all residents and at a time that would be suitable for everybody, but they are refusing. I believe the senior officers of both organisations should be prepared to come along to an open public meeting where they can see the strength of feeling against this closure and hear from our resident’s first-hand.

“Failing that, we will start organising mass demonstrations for each of the engagement sessions. What they have proposed instead is three separate meetings to take place at the hospital with no transport for our more senior residents.”

Meanwhile, leaked minutes from a staff meeting at the start of September – which have been uploaded to the Save Rothbury Cottage Hospital Facebook page – show a quote from Julie Danskin, general manager, medicine and emergency care for the Trust.

It states that she could not say what the final decision would be but in her opinion the chance of the hospital reopening to inpatients appeared very slim. The Gazette put this to the Trust, which reiterated that no decision has been made about the future.

To sign an online petition against the closure, see tinyurl.com/zrluons