In January, the NHS revealed plans for a “flexible” service in partnership with local care provider People First Care to provide both residential beds and NHS beds for patients needing “respite care, rehabilitation services, longer-term recuperation or end-of-life care”.
The news came more than five years after the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital was closed, initially on a temporary basis after it was found to be underused.
At Wednesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny committee, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust leaders gave a presentation on the “exciting” and “unique” plans for the hospital.
Under the new model, the trust will purchase NHS beds within the facility, with the number flexible depending on need.
Doctor Paul Paes, a consultant at Northumbria Healthcare and the trust’s clinical lead for community services, said: “What I want to share with you is our proposals first to meet a need for the residents of Rothbury and the surrounding area, delivering alongside the community services.
"The third aspect is more jobs, and that is an important aspect of this.
“This is quite an exciting model. Working alongside People First Care we will have beds in Rothbury Hospital.
“It is a new model, it is exciting but it will have to change.
"Since Covid we recognise that things can change quickly and we need to be more flexible.”
Some rooms are currently being refurbished to ensure they are up to standard for residential care.
When this work is completed and People First Care have recruited staff, the scheme will be “ready to go.”
Dr Paes added: “We now have a model that feels sustainable.”
Katie Scott, the coordinator of the Save Rothbury Community Hospital Campaign Team, was present at the meeting and welcomed the plans.
She said: “We’ve been through it for the last five years. The council has very graciously helped us through a lot of these scrutiny meetings.
"You got the whole proposal sent to the independent reconfiguration panel which was stunning – not many campaigns achieve this.
“We have got to here, we were excited about the flexible model pre-Covid and the end result appears to be just what what we have been fighting for from the start.
“I have to say originally at the start when we talked to the CCG they said there was no way they were having anything to do with residential care. They said it was impossible so we never formally argued for it because we believed them.
“But here we go. 2022 – miracles happen. We are pretty pleased and we just hope it works out.”