Rothbury hospital consultation ‘flawed’, say objectors

Protestors demonstrate against the closure of the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital.
Protestors demonstrate against the closure of the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital.

A consultation on plans to close inpatient beds at a village hospital was ‘fatally flawed’, campaigners claim.

Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) ran the three-month consultation period to consider the fate of the 12 beds at Rothbury Community Hospital.

The ward has been closed since September due to ‘low usage’ and the consultation – which closed last week – put forward a proposal to permanently shut the facility and shape existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre on the hospital site.

The news has been met with dismay by the community, with a petition calling for the beds to be reopened signed by nearly 5,500 people.

Just before the consultation period slammed shut, the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign group (SRCH) submitted its formal response to the plans – with damning views.

Following lengthy and detailed research, SRCH believes that the consultation document was ‘a catalogue of failure containing inaccuracies and falsehoods’ and that it was ‘an ill-prepared attempt to justify an ill-considered action’.

Group coordinator Katie Scott said: “It is not fit for purpose and its content should not be relied upon.

“The CCG has told the people in our communities that the beds had to go because they were under-occupied and that by closing them £500,000 could be saved.

“We have been able to demonstrate that neither of these statements hold water.”

The group says that the CCG has failed, during 2015 and 2016, to identify the low-bed occupancy at the hospital and claim that the bed occupancy ‘may even have been run down to justify the decision on closure’.

SRCH claims that the CCG failed to carry out a survey of bed occupancy at all community hospitals before suspending the use of the Rothbury beds and failed to provide evidence of any strategy to fill the beds.

The group accused the CCG of failing in numerous other ways, including not carrying out a study of likely population increases from planned new housing in the area, not conducting a transport survey and not taking into account the value of the proposed relocation of the Rothbury Practice to the hospital site.

Katie said: “It has been a difficult time for the people of Coquetdale and for other Northumberland communities to come to terms with the CCG’s seemingly ideological determination to close the inpatient beds.

“It has become clear that the CCG has decided that their chosen option is to close the beds permanently.”

SRCH has also put forward a last-ditch proposal to save the ward. The idea, entitled Coquetdale Cares – The Community’s Vision, is to create a hub for medical services under one roof at the hospital site, including the inpatient beds.

Before Parliament was dissolved this week, MP Anne Marie-Trevelyan submitted a formal response raising numerous concerns about the potential impact of the plans.

A Northumberland CCG spokeswoman confirmed that SRCH met Dr Alistair Blair and other CCG staff to hand over its response, which is ‘being fully considered along with all the other comments received during the consultation period’.

The CCG says that a review to consider how the beds were being used showed that during 2015/16 on average only half of the beds were occupied, which is partly due to medical advances which mean that people now spend much less time in hospital. The CCG said the review also showed that more support is being provided to help people in their own homes.

The CCG says a decision will be made in the summer.

To read the campaign group’s response in full, visit tinyurl.com/mxb2m6w