The 12-bed inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital was closed – temporarily at first, it was claimed – in September 2016 due to low usage, but to the dismay of the community, who opposed it vociferously.
Twelve months on, the board of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) voted unanimously to close the ward permanently and reshape the existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre at the hospital.
But in October last year, Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee decided to refer the decision to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
In May this year, the matter was referred by Mr Hunt to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), a non-departmental public health body, which was asked to respond by June 7.
Since then, there have been no updates, although Jeremy Hunt was replaced as Health Secretary by Matt Hancock in July, which will have had an impact on the decision-making process.
However, the health and wellbeing committee was told at its meeting this week that while there were no guarantees, it had been indicated there would be some news soon.
Meanwhile, Katie Scott, the coordinator of the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign, will be attending a meeting at Westminster on Monday to discuss the role of the IRP.
The meeting has been organised by the group 999 Call for the NHS and will be attended by Katie and other campaigners involved in cases which have been referred to the IRP.
“The whole referral process appears to be badly flawed,” said Katie. “It is in no one’s interest for this procedure to take so long.
“The campaigners who are meeting at the Houses of Parliament hope very much that the MPs attending, including Anne Marie Trevelyan, and health ministers, will listen closely to our arguments and use our knowledge and experiences to push for a change in the way things are done.
“Our hospital ward has been closed for two years now, with no flicker of light to give us hope on what is happening.
“Our campaign is fighting for a full review by the IRP – here in Coquetdale. We need independent people, to see for themselves what our situation really is.
“We know most people will prefer to rehabilitate at home, but not everyone, not all people – and the same goes for end of life. We need our ward for both of these things.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service