For the last 20 years or more, the buzzword in the NHS has been ‘choice’. However, when it comes to the closure of a hospital, it seems that there is no choice.
The recently-published consultation to close the 12 beds at Rothbury is a perfect example of no choice and little transparency on the discussions and decisions made prior to the temporary closure.
The consultation is only considering one option – the closure of the beds and the “shaping of existing services into a health and wellbeing centre”.
This totally ignores the 4,500 people, almost the entire population of Coquetdale, who petitioned for the beds to remain open, and the ongoing work of the campaign group and others who have tried unsuccessfully to work with the NHS on a future solution.
When the closure was first announced, there were requests to the NHS to provide evidence that it had proactively worked to maximise the use of the beds, but this elicited no response, resulting in the belief that the long-term plan was to show the under usage of the beds and then to close them.
In 12 weeks’ time the NHS will have listened, but, it seems, not heard the clear views of the public, and proved only to itself that closing the hospital is the right solution.
What will this mean for the people of Coquetdale?
We will no longer have a hospital, but a health centre or “hub” – a hospital is a building with beds and they will be gone.
Anyone who requires non-acute hospital care and cannot be cared for at home will be transported to Berwick, Morpeth or Alnwick community hospitals, away from family and friends.
Anyone who cannot be supported at home and is near the end of their life will be transported to these same hospitals, away from family and friends.
Family and friends will have the added burden and cost of travelling, and if using public transport not being able to visit in the evenings or on Sundays.
The NHS claims it will save £500,000 by closing the beds, while our local community is penalised by losing local services and having to travel to access alternatives.
Throughout this period, many personal stories have been told about how Rothbury hospital was never offered as an option post-discharge.
Meanwhile, the acute hospital struggles with managing demand, delayed discharges and an ever-increasing older population.
A sad state of affairs.