A three-month public consultation, led by the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is under way to consider the fate of the ward. It runs until Tuesday, April 25.
The proposal is to permanently close the 12-bed inpatient facility and shape existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre on the hospital site.
Health bosses say that this could include the relocation of the GP practice, more physiotherapy services and more outpatient clinics, including possibly using video links so that patients can have a consultation with a specialist who is based at another hospital.
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.
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As part of the consultation, the first of two NHS-organised public meetings took place in the village last Thursday afternoon, followed by a separate meeting run by objectors.
The strength of feeling against the proposal was once again reiterated and protestors say they will come up with a new, alternative option to save the beds.
A campaign spokeswoman said: “We have gathered very valuable suggestions and the team is going to be working very hard to formulate another option.
“This will be all the positive things that a clinic can provide, but with the addition of the beds.
“We are not done and we will put forward another option which they have got to listen to.”
At the public meeting, Dr Alistair Blair, clinical chairman at the CCG, said that numerous options had been considered prior to the consultation.
These included reopening the 12 inpatient beds with no change to the inpatient services provided; developing the 12 beds as long-term nursing and/or residential care beds; and the permanent closure of the 12 inpatient beds.
But the NHS has decided to consult on the Health and Wellbeing centre option.
Dr Blair said that ‘no provider has an appetite’ to provide social-care beds from the hospital and added: “We didn’t want to consult on things that we didn’t think we could commit to and we didn’t want to give you options which we know are not realistic.
“But if there is another option put forward, which meets the statutory requirements – which demonstrates that we are using the resources efficiently, effectively and economically – then we will consider it.”
The NHS is planning to be in a position to make a decision by summer 2017.