As a concerned, ageing resident I attended the open meetings in 2016/2017 at which the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) outlined its proposals to close all the beds at Rothbury Hospital, and I witnessed the universal anger and distress of hundreds of others from the local communities.
The county council considered that it had not been consulted properly and that the proposals were not in the interests of health service provision. Consequently, it referred them to the Secretary of State for Health for a decision. He asked for advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
The advice which the panel gave to the then Secretary of State for Health on June 7 has just been released. It confirms that the Save Rothbury Hospital campaign was correct in everything it has said about the work of the CCG.
The panel found that the CCG failed to consult with the county council as required; to carry out an equality impact assessment as part of the consultation; to comply with NHS England’s ‘5th Test’ relating to the closure of wards; to supply any substantial evidence of the experience of patients or carers during the period of bed closure, or of the travelling difficulties, cost and inconvenience caused; and to show what services would be provided in the suggested health and wellbeing centre.
It would consequently appear that the actions of the CCG, which had previously been placed in special measures by NHS England and had been found to be inadequate, could be described as incompetent.
The use of all the beds in the hospital should never have been suspended. Two years of misery have been caused unnecessarily.
The CCG should be ashamed of itself and apologise, rather than merely issuing a press release, which I consider is dismissive and arrogant.
The Secretary of State has directed the county council’s scrutiny committee to consult with local people and the CCG with a view to resolving this unfortunate mess.
Let us hope that the sensible scrutiny committee will listen to the informed views of the Save Rothbury Hospital campaign and put an end to the nonsensical situation which has been created.