HOSPITAL: Handling is a '˜disgrace'

I am not a member of the Save Rothbury Community Hospital Campaign, but as a local resident I would like to offer my support to Katie Scott's excellent letter, (Northumberland Gazette, July 26).

With growing disquiet, I have been following the processing of the proposal of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to close permanently all of the beds in that hospital.

Northumberland County Council’s scrutiny committee quite properly rejected those proposals as they were not in the public interest, and it referred the matter to the Secretary of State last October.

It was clear that a local solution could not be found.

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An exchange of letters took place shortly afterwards between the department and the council, but the department has refused to release their content. This is unacceptable, especially as no reason for this has apparently been given.

It took the department more than five months to pass the papers to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) for an initial assessment, but requested a response from it within a few days.

It is understood that the IRP issued its advice by the prescribed date of June 7, but that advice, too, has not been made public.

Since then a cabinet shuffle has resulted in Matthew Hancock becoming Secretary of State for Health. He has inherited a situation about which he probably has no previous knowledge.

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The parliamentary recess and the holiday season are now upon us, which leaves one wondering whether any decisions will be made in Whitehall, and if so, when, by whom and on whose agenda?

The campaign team, which has worked tirelessly and examined the proposals forensically, has every reason to feel frustrated and concerned.

When answering a question recently in Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May stated that such matters are best decided locally.

Of course that is fine, if a CCG will listen to public opinion and act upon it or effect a compromise.

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However, in this case, the 10-member board of the Northumberland CCG has utterly refused to accept any point made by county and parish councils, the campaign team, numerous health and local organisations, letters from individuals and a petition from more than 5,000 people.

It is an obvious public disgrace how the matter has been handled, both before and since it was submitted to Whitehall.

It is high time that the new Secretary of State took full control. It is obvious that the issue should be returned to the IRP with clear instructions for it to hold a full local hearing in Rothbury.

People’s lives and their welfare are at stake.

Katie Scott is right, the people of rural Northumberland deserve better than this.

Aidan Harrison,