Plans to rebuild Berwick Infirmary have been put on hold until early autumn, health and care leaders across Northumberland have revealed.
The move, requested by NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), aims to ensure that plans fully meet the ambitious shared vision for the future of health and care services in the county.
This decision comes as the NHS across England is working collectively to think about how care can be transformed to ensure long-term sustainability given the significant challenges of an aging population, more people living longer with more complex needs and increased financial pressures.
The brief pause in the Berwick project will make sure plans for the new healthcare facility in Berwick maximise every opportunity to integrate health and social care even further and offer the best possible solution which is fit for the future.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust held a special board meeting on Friday 5 August to agree next steps to keep the project moving forward and remains fully committed to a new, fit-for-purpose, healthcare facility for Berwick.
Dr Alistair Blair, GP and chief clinical officer at NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We recognise how passionately people feel about a new health and care facility in Berwick and that the local community has waited a long time for plans to progress. The new building will be a once in a generation opportunity and we have to get it right - this brief pause allows us to take stock and ensure that it will be future proof.
“In Northumberland in particular, we have a significantly higher than average elderly population which places further pressure on our health and care system – the redevelopment in Berwick gives us the opportunity to meet some of these challenges by thinking creatively about how we can integrate care even further.
“We will be working closely with both Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council to make sure the plans for Berwick Infirmary meet the holistic needs of our patients - from both a health and social care perspective - and that our strong partnership working continues to put Northumberland at the forefront of innovation in the NHS.”
Mr David Evans, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We remain fully committed to a new healthcare facility for Berwick and we know just how important this is for people living in the town.
“We have wholeheartedly welcomed all feedback throughout our engagement activity in Berwick in recent months and heard a strong recurring theme to make sure our new development is ‘future proofed’ and puts us in a strong position to meet future challenges, facing not only the NHS, but also social care.
“It is important that we now take this opportunity to reflect collectively, with all partners, to make sure we deliver a truly innovative development in Berwick which delivers the very best in healthcare provision. We will of course continue to keep all stakeholders fully updated.”
Daljit Lally, executive director of wellbeing and community health who is employed in a formal joint role between Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council, said: “This is a hugely important time for the NHS and, as a health and care economy, we are fully committed to making sure our future plans for Berwick offer the highest possible quality of health and care provision and also that we are focused on keeping people healthy and well.”
Plans for the redevelopment of Berwick Infirmary have been very warmly welcomed by people living in the town and Northumbria Healthcare has continued to engage local people throughout the development process.
Arrangements are now being made for further engagement sessions to be held in autumn to update local people following this brief pause in the redevelopment project.