Residents are being asked to give their feedback on a proposal to relocate a Northumberland village's GP practice.
Plans have been drawn up to move the 'increasingly unfit for purpose' Rothbury surgery, located on Market Place, to Rothbury Community Hospital, on Whitton Bank Road.
GPs would be co-located with community nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians and other hospital staff if the proposal goes ahead. Practice manager Trine Bonsnes said that this would 'further improve integration between primary care (the GPs) and secondary care (the hospital)'.
The move is designed to give patients improved accessibility, including better car parking, particularly for the elderly and disabled and those with young children needing pushchairs, and give them care in an environment that is fit for purpose.
Ms Bonsnes said: "The patient population of the practice has expanded over the last few months and years and we are now really struggling with space. Our current GP premises are becoming increasingly unfit for purpose with limited access to ground-floor clinical rooms being a constant concern.
"Alongside this, the GP practice strives to be able to provide a clinical service from treatment rooms that comply with the best health and safety and infection control regulations. This is proving difficult from a 200-year-old listed building that was initially designed for residential use. In addition, there is no reserved car parking available at our current location. We are proposing to move the practice to Rothbury Community Hospital; built in 2008, this would provide a purpose-built modern environment.
"The community hospital site has the capacity to accommodate the co-location of the GP surgery and also provides future opportunity for expansion if necessary. All of the clinical space and facilities would be on the ground floor so it is accessible for all'.
All of the contact details and staff would remain the same, while there would be no change in patients' repeat prescriptions.
As part of the consultation process, drop-in sessions will be held at the Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, on Friday, December 11, from 11am to 4pm, and Rothbury Community Hospital on Thursday, January 14, from 4pm to 7pm. Residents will be encouraged to give their views on the proposals. Residents can also email NORCCG_RothburyPractice@nhs.net
Responding to the proposal, Rothbury county council Steven Bridgett said that it would bring many benefits, although he raised a concern about access.
He said: "Having the GP surgery and hospital in the same location would strengthen the position of the Community Hospital - especially in this time of 'austerity' and when smaller hospitals have been closed elsewhere. The hospital is a modern facility that meets all of the criteria for National Standards of Cleanliness in the NHS. The Community Hospital is fully disability compliant and all floors and rooms can be accessed by anyone in a wheelchair or anyone who may not be as mobile.
"There is adequate parking at the hospital and it means residents will not be forced to park at the other end of the village to visit the surgery - as is often the case.
"The only negative in my view is the access; whilst the current surgery is in a central location, the hospital is slightly out of the way. However, the same argument can be made at the moment that the current surgery is difficult to access for those residents who do not live in the centre of Rothbury.
"I am currently working with the Practice Manager and the Transport Team at County Hall to see if there is a way we can mitigate this with the help of local transport providers. I look forward to hearing residents' thoughts."