Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan took to the floor of the House of Commons yesterday afternoon to make the case for retaining inpatient beds at Rothbury Community Hospital.
The 12 beds were temporarily closed in September 2016 and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is consulting on a proposal to make the measure permanent, citing lack of occupation.
The CCG wants to shape existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre on the hospital site. Health bosses say that this could include the relocation of the GP practice, more physiotherapy services and more outpatient clinics, including possibly using video links so that patients can have a consultation with a specialist who is based at another hospital.
But objectors have described it as a huge disappointment and a short-sighted approach and accused the CCG of ignoring the heartfelt views of the community, which wants to keep the beds.
Yesterday, Mrs Trevelyan argued that the beds in Rothbury are vital and should remain open.
Since the three-month consultation was launched in January, she has been applying for a Commons debate on the topic and eventually won her slot in the ballot to raise the issue with a Health Minister in the Commons Chamber.
Speaking to the Commons, Mrs Trevelyan said: “Where I part company from our hard-working CCG on this issue is that I believe that those beds have been empty not because of a lack of demand, but because decisions have been taken to send people home to receive community care, or to Alnwick Infirmary to receive in-patient care.
“As a result, Alnwick Infirmary has been running near to capacity for some time, and those in the north and east of my constituency who might otherwise have been sent there have been forced to remain in the urgent care beds at the UK’s first specialist emergency care hospital at Cramlington — our new specialist care hospital for the whole of Northumberland and North Tyneside — for longer, placing greater strain and expense on our healthcare system than necessary.”
Mrs Trevelyan told the House of the remote nature of the community served by Rothbury Community Hospital and the additional challenges that places on patients and their loved ones.
She added: “The Coquet valley is frequently cut off during winter months, making travel to Alnwick infirmary to see loved ones receiving care especially difficult and sometimes not possible at all.
“Even during the summer months, there is little public transport to connect the valley and Rothbury to Alnwick. The ability of loved ones to visit patients receiving care at Rothbury Community Hospital was cited time and again to me as one of the primary reasons the inpatient beds are so vital to my constituents.”
The MP also used her speech to praise the local campaign group, Save Rothbury Hospital, which worked with Mrs Trevelyan in preparing for the debate.
Anne-Marie called on the CCG to pause its consultation until results from a University of Leeds’ study into the benefits of community hospitals has been published.
She believes the study will provide a more rounded picture of the benefits such services have to communities such as Rothbury.
She said: “The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, regularly challenges NHS England on how it spends taxpayers’ money to deliver the best integrated health and social-care provision.
“I know that the Minister is working hard to drive this forward, and we encourage him to go further, but until the results from the University of Leeds are published, the Minister has little economic evidence of the value of the intermediate care provided by community hospitals with which to work on the sort of sustainable solution that I want to see for our community hospital in Rothbury.”