Rothbury Community Hospital plan delayed until 2021 due to pandemic

The introduction of a new flexible bed model at Rothbury Community Hospital will be delayed until next spring at the earliest due to coronavirus.

By Ben O'Connell
Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 2:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 2:26 pm
Rothbury Community Hospital.
Rothbury Community Hospital.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has revealed that the new arrangements will have to be put on hold until after the winter period, with a review in spring 2021 – almost five years after the inpatient ward was first closed.

But bosses have explained that its priorities at the moment have to be to focus on the biggest risks facing communities across Northumberland and North Tyneside, with the safety of patients and staff of chief importance.

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A file picture of campaigners welcoming progress made on the future of Rothbury Community Hospital.

This includes managing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, treating and caring for cancer patients and high-risk patients, including those with cardiac issues and at risk of stroke, ensuring those patients who need support in their homes get their care and help they need, and planning for what could potentially be a very difficult winter.

Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing and community services at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “We appreciate that having to delay implementing the flexible bed model at Rothbury Community Hospital will be disappointing for the local community.

“The last few months have been extremely challenging for health and care services as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“Given the rules and regulations now governing our work, including social distancing, use of PPE and infection control, we have had to review our short to medium-term plans.

“Our priorities now need to focus on continuing to manage the impact of Covid-19, treating and caring for those with cancer and other high-risk conditions and planning for what we think could potentially be a difficult winter.

“I would like to assure people that we are still absolutely committed to providing as much care as we can locally and to build on the progress we have made to do this.”

Coun Steven Bridgett, the ward member for Rothbury, accepted that the trust had to take this decision.

“No one could have predicted the situation we would find ourselves in over recent months,” he said. “At this point in time, I think it is the right course of action, but make no mistake I will be keeping a watching brief and as a member of the project board for the hospital, I will ensure that what has been promised is actually delivered.”

On the Save Rothbury Hospital campaign Facebook page, coordinator Katie Scott added: “In the circumstances, we feel that this is reasonable and understandable, but also disappointing.”

The trust is keen to underline that it has made good progress on other developments in Rothbury, including enhancing care in the community.

This has resulted in more than 11,000 home contacts since February last year, the introduction of virtual outpatient consultations and more people being treated by the district nursing team.

To support this, Northumbria Healthcare has recruited a senior clinical lead as well as an additional staff nurse who has been working in the Rothbury district nursing team; introduced a dental practice into the site; supplemented district nursing teams with podiatry staff; completed the structural building work at the hospital to support the integrated model of care; started to explore the hospital becoming a digital hub to facilitate access to virtual appointments; and increased the number of non-face-to-face consultations, with 1,265 virtual ones taking place over the last 15 months.

The proposals for Rothbury Community Hospital have come about following the trust and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) looking again at the future of the facility, after the Health Secretary ordered that more work needed to be done locally on the next steps.

This was in the wake of the permanent closure of the site’s 12-bed inpatient ward in 2017, one year after a temporary shut-down came into force.

Last September, members of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee unanimously backed the trust’s proposals and accepted that the directions of the Secretary of State and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) – a non-departmental public health body which concluded that there were flaws in the CCG’s engagement and consultation processes – had been met.

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