A multi-million pound investment in new health and leisure services for Berwick has been announced.
The development, costing £45million-plus, is being planned on the Swan Centre for Leisure site in Tweedmouth.
Existing services currently provided within Berwick Infirmary will be included in the scheme.
A new £18million leisure centre which aims to provide a first class facility for residents and tourists is also planned.
The move, described as a ‘huge leap forward’, has been approved by the leadership of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in their individual board meetings.
The development of a new integrated health, social care and leisure facility requires further approval from Northumberland County Council, however all organisations are positive that plans continue to be driven forward that will see Berwick leading the way in the provision of integrated health and well-being services.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “We’re delighted there’s been significant progress in this flagship project for Berwick and Northumberland.
“Understandably, there has been a lot of local frustration due to historic delays in progressing with the new Berwick Hospital, but a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes over recent months.
“The link between health and wellbeing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is well established and the possibility of combining health and leisure services in one area through this partnership is an exciting prospect.”
If approved at the council’s cabinet next month, the plans will see an innovative new joint hospital and leisure facility on the Swan Centre site in Berwick – which will bring significant investment into the town.
“It’s absolutely fantastic to be at this stage,” said Northumbria Healthcare chief executive Jim Mackey.
“It has been a long, at times frustrating, road but I can honestly say that we have arrived at the right place. These plans will incorporate existing services currently provided within the Berwick Infirmary in a modern, purpose built facility.
“Co-locating leisure and health is a natural step and will make it much easier for our nurses, therapists and doctors to link in with exercise facilities which are critical to healthy living.
“Similar models have been successful elsewhere – including within the North East –which will mean that the new facility serves the whole community for years to come.”
The co-location of a new hospital and new leisure site represents the best in modern medical thinking – with an emphasis not just on treating sickness or injury but in preventing them in the first place.
Janet Guy, chair of NHS Northumberland CCG said: “We know people in Berwick are keen to see improved services locally and we are keen to be able to take this
further forward. The integration of health services and their co-location with a leisure facility reflects the very latest thinking in how to deliver world class care.
“Nationally and locally there is now a much greater focus on patients spending less time in hospital and being supported in the community, where it is safe to do so.
“The new hospital will include inpatient beds, a range of other hospital services, possibly GP services as well as community health and social care staff and leisure facilities.
“We remain absolutely committed to ensuring this development will be fit for the future and we will continue to work with the local community to ensure it meets their needs.”
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has expressed her delight that the plans have cleared a major hurdle.
She said: “This is such an important step in securing a hospital in our town for the future. Local residents have been concerned that plans for the new hospital might not materialise, but I have been working hard with the local NHS team and with Ministers to insist that Berwick needs its own hospital facilities.
“There have been so many hold ups over the years that people have come to me worried about the future of the hospital. Now that we have Conservatives in power at County Hall, committed to ensuring healthcare facilities remain in Berwick, we can move forward with these vital plans. Crucially, every service presently provided at the hospital will be offered at the new site, and I know there are plans to add new services too. That the town will also be acquiring new leisure facilities is an added bonus and a really positive step for the health of the town.”