Community urged to back Rothbury hospital campaign at key council meeting

Campaigners at the meeting of the Northumberland County Council working group in December.
Campaigners at the meeting of the Northumberland County Council working group in December.

Campaigners claim their vision for the future of healthcare in Rothbury remains the best, while urging residents to attend a key meeting this week.

As previously reported, county councillors are set to agree an interim response to the Health Secretary on the future of Rothbury Community Hospital this Wednesday (January 23).

Upon announcing in November that more work needed to be done locally on the next steps, following the closure of the site’s 12 inpatient beds, Secretary of State Matt Hancock called for an update on progress by the end of this month.

A special meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee is to take place to discuss responses from health bosses to a number of review areas and questions, which were given to them at a very brief working-group meeting last month.

Residents and campaigners were left furious after this largely administrative event, with major concerns as to how their voices will be heard.

The Save Rothbury Community Hospital (SRCH) group says that when the committee first referred the closure to the Secretary of State in October 2017, it relied heavily on the documents compiled by the campaign team.

Dozens of emails have been sent by many organisations and individuals requesting that the county council recognises the group as being ‘the voice of Coquetdale’.

It follows the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), a non-departmental public health body, concluding that there were flaws in NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) engagement and consultation processes and that ‘further action locally is required to agree and implement the proposed health and wellbeing centre, potentially including inpatient beds, at Rothbury Community Hospital’.

Katie Scott, coordinator of the SRCH campaign, said: “We still have absolutely no idea what the CCG means by a health and wellbeing hub.

“Since the GPs have moved into the ground floor of the building, our original plan for the hospital, Coquetdale Cares, still makes the most sense to the local community.

“However, our plan, for a fully-functioning, integrated hospital, with nurses, paramedics, end-of-life and rehabilitation beds, social-services offices and so on, has been completely ignored by the CCG, which seems to be absolutely determined to get rid of community hospital beds, no matter what.”

When the CCG decided to close the inpatient ward, it said that within three months of creating a health and wellbeing centre, a range of additional services would be provided, including an additional specialist palliative-care nurse, a range of virtual outpatient clinics and outpatient monitoring for patients who need regular blood tests. These would be in addition to existing services at the hospital.

In the longer term, consideration would be given to including services such as infusions for patients with a range of chronic conditions, more diagnostic testing and NHS denistry.

The CCG stated that year-on-year savings of permanently closing the inpatient beds and developing a health and wellbeing centre would be more than £450,000.

The health and wellbeing committee meeting takes place at 1pm at County Hall, Morpeth, with ward member Coun Steven Bridgett and the SRCH team being given 10 minutes each to speak.

The campaign team is urging all residents to go along to support the fight to have the ward reopened. Community transport is available, call Lesley Leeson on 01669 622264.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service