HOSPITAL: Ward closure not justified

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Readers will know that NHS Northumberland Clinical Conditioning Group (CCG) has announced its intention to permanently close Rothbury Community Hospital on the grounds of low bed occupancy and cost.

The CCG has produced a consultation document proposing five options for the hospital, but dismissing all but the one it favours – that is to close the hospital inpatient ward.

The CCG claims a £500,000 saving in staff costs. However, as all staff have been redeployed it is difficult to see how this saves cost.

The hospital was built in 2007 under a 25-year Public Finance Initiative contract at an approximate cost of £600,000 per year.

The CCG omits to mention the continuing cost of the PFI contract in the consultation document.

The CCG acknowledges that Alnwick Community Hospital manages to achieve 90 per cent bed occupancy, but has apparently taken no steps to increase occupancy at Rothbury. A cynic might conclude that the CCG is using this as an excuse for closure.

Residents of Rothbury and the Coquet Valley are unanimous in their opposition to the CCG proposals and closure of the hospital.

A petition with more than 5,000 signatures has been collected – almost the entire population of the valley – demanding that the hospital stays open.

Given that the local population is overwhelmingly of the view that the hospital should stay open, there is no economic case for closure, and that the CCG seems not to have fully considered options for increasing bed occupancy, let’s hope that common sense will prevail.

Perhaps somewhere in some health service ivory tower, a senior executive hit on the idea to close community hospitals in favour of large centralised units.

In 20 years’ time, a successor executive may hit on the idea of opening lots of small, community hospitals. These will be popular, efficient and cost effective in serving the needs of the local population.

Richard Spotwood,

Hillside East,