A petition signed by more than 4,500 people will be presented to an NHS boss at a public meeting tonight, as objectors continue their fight to save inpatient beds at Rothbury Community Hospital.
Residents are being urged to attend this evening’s public meeting in the village’s Jubilee Hall, which runs from 6.30pm to 8.30pm and is sure to be a passionate, packed and busy affair.
The forum comes as part of a three-month consultation period, run by NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), to consider the fate of the 12-bed inpatient ward, which has been closed since September due to ‘low usage’.
The NHS is proposing to permanently shut the facility and shape existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre on the hospital site.
But objectors have described it as a huge disappointment and a short-sighted approach and accused the CCG of ignoring the heartfelt views of the community, which wants to keep the beds.
Katie Scott, coordinator of the Save Rothbury Hospital campaign, said: “The CCG needs to understand that the community of Coquetdale refuses to simply give in to its spin.
“We are certain that the beds have been allowed, if not encouraged, to be under-utilised.
“More than 4,500 people say ‘reopen the ward’. It’s time the CCG began to listen.”
Campaigners intend to hand the petition to Dr Alistair Blair, Northumberland CCG’s clinical chairman, tonight.
After the inpatient ward was suspended last year, a review took place to consider how the beds were being used. The NHS says that it showed that during 2015/16 on average only half of the beds were occupied.
Dr Blair said: “We know how much interest there is in Rothbury about the consultation and we recognise how much the hospital is valued.
“We want to make the best possible use of this building and are keen to work with the community to help do that.”
As well as the public meeting, a drop-in session is being held on Wednesday, from 2pm to 4pm, at the Jubilee Hall.
The consultation runs until Tuesday, April 25. For more details and to find out about the other ways you can respond, visit www.north umberlandccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/RCHconsultation