ROTHBURY WARD CLOSURE: Questions and answers

Rothbury Community Hospital
Rothbury Community Hospital

Here, the NHS answers some of the questions about the temporary closure of the inpatients ward at Rothbury Community Hospital that cropped up regularly at the first drop-in session last week.

Have the beds and equipment been removed from the hospital?

No – the beds and equipment are still in the hospital. Clinical supplies with an expiry date have been sent back to central stores so they can be used elsewhere in the trust.

Who owns the PFI contract on the hospital building?

The PFI contract is between Northumbria Healthcare and Helen McArdle Care. The temporary suspension of inpatient services in no way impacts on Northumbria Healthcare’s ongoing PFI arrangements to repay the remaining 15 years of the contract.

Can you explain the bed occupancy rates/usage?

Over the past three years, we have seen a steady reduction in the number of patients who have needed an overnight stay in hospital and this has impacted on the number of beds being used at Rothbury – on average, the ward has only been half-full throughout the past two years.

This decline in inpatient activity is, in many ways, a marker of the success we have had in Northumberland by moving more care outside of hospital and is a positive reflection of the significant investment we have put into developing integrated community teams, who can keep people well at home.

It is also very important that people understand the number of hospital beds within the NHS is not the measure of quality or success.

As treatments become quicker and more advanced, there is no need for people to be in hospital as long as they used to be. Patients undergoing a hip or knee replacement, for example, will often go home the next day and be up walking on their new joints hours after their operations.

Since we introduced our new model of emergency care, we have also seen many more patients now being discharged straight home after an emergency admission, thanks to the very quick diagnosis and treatment available from specialists seven days a week at the Northumbria hospital.

What is the inpatient ward in Rothbury used for?

The type of patients we have historically seen in Rothbury are, in the main, complex elderly patients, the majority of whom have medical problems that require a slightly longer period in hospital to aid their rehabilitation and recovery, or, those who are nearing the end of life. These patients are looked after by a team of nurses.

Is the GP practice moving into the site?

Discussions are still ongoing with GPs in Rothbury about this.

What are the plans/what’s the future for the building?

There are no new plans about the future of the building. Rothbury Community Hospital provides a vital community resource and while we do need to review the usage of inpatients beds as they currently stand, we are very clear that the hospital will continue to provide a vital hub for healthcare delivery in the village.

Why did you not carry out a consultation before closing the ward?

The temporary suspension of inpatient admissions was an operational decision which, by their very nature, must be made quickly to help manage immediate pressures and demands with the whole healthcare system. Wards with low occupancy rates are often suspended to new admissions at certain times of the year to ensure that staff and finite resources are used where they are most needed.  

If a consultation starts, will the ward reopen after the review meeting?

In light of this quick operational decision, we are currently engaging with the local community to ensure that all views can be fed to NHS Northumberland CCG and captured as part of the review taking place. This review will be shared publicly on November 17 and will advise on the next steps in the process.

Are you just going to close it?

No permanent decision has been taken about the future of inpatient services at Rothbury Community Hospital. No permanent decision will be made without full and thorough engagement with people living in the village and a robust public consultation process.

Why did you have to re-deploy staff?

When we have a ward that is so underused, like we have in Rothbury, we have to think about the staffing that goes with that and where our nurses’ skills and expertise can be maximised and put to best use. This is especially true when we have other parts of the NHS in Northumberland having to use agency staff because they are so busy.

What services still remain?  

The temporary suspension of new admissions does not affect any other services which operate from Rothbury Community Hospital and see hundreds of patients every year – this includes all physiotherapy, occupational therapy, outpatients, child health clinics and community paramedic services, which are all continuing as normal.

Rothbury’s district nursing team is also based on the ground floor of the hospital where a number of clinics take place.

What is the ambulance provision in Rothbury?

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) have six community paramedic based in Rothbury Community Hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. One paramedic is on duty all the time and there are no plans to make any changes to the service.