Rothbury Hospital campaigners' 'delight' after 'struggle to get our beds back' proves fruitful

Katie Scott, co-ordinator of the Save Rothbury Community Hospital Campaign, tells of the group’s ‘delight’ as its ‘struggle to get our beds back’ proves fruitful:

“The 12-bedded ward at Rothbury Community Hospital was abruptly closed in September 2016. I began the Save Rothbury Community Hospital Campaign Group the next day.

“The voice from Coquetdale was strong, indignant and determined. We were not about to allow the ‘powers that be’ to destroy our beloved health facility. For the last three years we have been fighting for the reopening of the ward.

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“It was easy to get people to join the Campaign Team. During the three years there have been up to 18 people helping, in a variety of ways. These Team members have shared their skills in: writing, knowledge of NHS processes, the law, the media, the health needs of the community, statistics, and so on.

“We organised protests, marches, we held meetings, we made posters, we wrote articles, poems, polemics. We were supported by many community groups: parish councils, the hospital League of Friends, the Churches, and so on. We argued that greater thought should be applied; the beds should be reopened, and the hospital developed to become a shining beacon of innovative excellence for rural communities. We developed a plan which we called Coquetdale Cares – the community vision.

“Maurice Cole, the legal expert on the team, led our argument over the consultation to permanently close the ward. When the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) tried to persuade Northumberland County Council’s Scrutiny Committee to accept their decision the Committee agreed with the Campaign Team – and that the closure was not in the best interests of the residents in North Northumberland.

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“Scrutiny voted to send the whole matter to the Secretary of State for Health to intervene. He agreed with the Campaign Team. So did the independent panel which also looked into the case.

“All this time, many people shared their stories (some very tragic) with us, of how their loved ones should have been able to be nursed in our hospital, but instead were miles away in Wansbeck, North Tyneside or Alnwick.

“In spring 2019 Maurice and I had a meeting with Sir Jim Mackey, CEO of the NHS Trust and Claire Riley, Director of Comms. I told them about the genuine hardship suffered by people denied a hospital bed. Claire and Sir Jim listened; then proposed that a working group of clinicians from the NHS Trust and from the Campaign Team work together on proposals. This group has been meeting throughout this year.

“The CCG also began to work with the community in an ‘Engagement Group’. This comprised people from different areas representing the residents. When the NHS Northumbria Healthcare Trust shared their plan, The Art of the Possible, with the Engagement Group, we all had our say. The plan is clearly modelled on our Vision, but goes further, and we have to say, we are delighted with it.“You can read what is planned to be available here:

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“It has been a long hard struggle, but we are a determined bunch of people who always believed that we would win if we were tenacious enough, because of the extreme rurality of our area and the growing elderly and vulnerable population.

“We will continue to offer suggestions to improve or define a service, and we plan to monitor closely what happens in the future, to ensure that if beds are needed, they are available to our community.

“Sincere thanks go to the Northumbria NHS Healthcare Trust and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group for coming together to develop an innovative, ground-breaking, excellent proposal for the future of our Community Hospital. Particular thanks to Helen Ray for developing the plan.”Katie ScottCo-ordinator, Save Rothbury Community Hospital Campaign

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