Residents are being encouraged to turn out in force at Rothbury’s community hospital on Wednesday to show their opposition to the recent closure of the inpatient ward.
The temporary suspension of the 12 beds took place at the start of last month and the findings of a review of the service will be made available by NHS bosses at a public meeting on Thursday, November 17.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group are holding a series of drop-in sessions at the hospital to engage with local people about the ward’s future – and now a public protest is planned to coincide with the third and final of these sessions, which starts at 4pm on Wednesday.
The NHS has said that the main reason for the beds’ temporary closure is because of their ‘extremely low use’ which in turn reflects the situation that more and more people are successfully receiving home care instead.
But the coordinator of the Save Rothbury Cottage Hospital campaign group, Katie Scott, says that this ‘help to home’ approach is not all that’s needed.
“In a remote community like ours, with a predominantly ageing population, we need these beds for palliative care, rehab and respite care,” she said.
“We all know people whose loved ones have spent their last days and hours on this ward, thankful to be able to remain in their own community right to the end, looking out at the Simonside hills. Family and friends can easily visit – remember our nearest other hospitals are all so many miles away.”
The new purpose-built hospital was only opened nine years ago, but its Minor Injuries Unit was suddenly closed in September 2014.
Former local GP, Dr Angus Armstrong, who opened the new hospital with his TV star son, Alexander, in 2007, says he is strongly opposed to the ward closure. He said: “How can these beds be got rid of? This is the only community hospital south of the Tweed, north of the Tyne and west of the A1.”
Dr Armstrong is actively supporting the campaign group to save the hospital and urged all local people to come forward and protest in a bid to keep the facility open.
Anyone wanting to protest or to put their case to the NHS commissioners should come to the main Haugh public car park at Rothbury any time between 4pm and 6.30pm on Wednesday.
There is also an online petition available at http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-rothbury-hospital-from-closure as well as paper petitions in many of the town’s shops.