NHS accused of lip service in hospital fight

Rothbury Community Hospital.

Rothbury Community Hospital.

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Campaigners are accusing the NHS of paying lip service following the temporary closure of inpatient services at Rothbury Community Hospital.

At the start of the month, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCG) dropped the bombshell news that the ward would shut for three months.

The decision-makers say this is due to a fall in patient numbers and have vowed to review the situation in November.

Three drop-in sessions are being held in the group room at Rothbury Community Hospital for people to talk to NHS staff. These take place on Wednesday (5pm to 8pm); Wednesday, October 5 (4pm to 6pm); and Wednesday, October 12 (4.30pm to 6.30pm).

Last week, the Gazette reported that campaigners were not impressed with the drop-in sessions, instead calling on senior managers from both organisations to meet the community at a public meeting.

It has now been announced that the NCCG will be carrying out a detailed review, working closely with the Trust, to look at the ‘declining bed-occupancy levels’ and ‘low use of inpatient services at the hospital which have been evident for a number of years’.

The NHS has now said that the CCG will report its findings at a public meeting in Rothbury on Thursday, November 17; the details of which are currently being confirmed and will be shared publicly as soon as possible. But this has done little to appease objectors. Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett said: “We want a public meeting now when they are formulating their decision, not one in November when they are paying lip service with us. We want one before then, but they will not concede to one.

“Why do we want a public meeting when they are telling us the results of the consultation? We want a public meeting during the consultation to tell them what we think, rather than having a meeting once they have already made a decision.”

Dr Alistair Blair, of NCCG, said: “We would like to reiterate that no permanent decision has been taken about the future of inpatient services. We understand some of the concerns, which will need to be fully considered.”