£75m hospital gets green light

A NEW £75million emergency hospital for Northumberland has been given the green light by councillors.

The 240-bed hospital will be built by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust in Cramlington to bring under one roof emergency care for patients from across the county.

It is expected that 60,000 people a year will be treated there, with 40,000 arriving by ambulance. There would be about 10 arrivals and departures a month by helicopter.

Eight members of Northumberland County Council’s Planning and Environment Committee voted to grant permission for the hospital, with only one, Cramlington member Wayne Daley, voting against.

However, the decision must now be referred to the Civil Aviation Authority and the Secretary of State in case it affects Newcastle Airport.

A late condition was added to prevent interference with airport radar, though the airport had withdrawn its objection on that issue and opposed the scheme only because it might curtail its future expansion.

There was also fierce objection from local residents, who say the hospital will bring danger and disruption to people living nearby.

Objectors’ spokeswoman Margaret Povey, whose son Scott, now 16, was hit by a car and slightly hurt outside the family home three years ago, said relatives rushing to the hospital along busy, narrow routes might cause accidents.

“When traffic is travelling at high speeds and people are driving irrationally and a child death occurs, will you come to the funeral and say, ‘I was wrong to vote in favour of this site’ and offer your condolences to the family?” she said.

She also warned of traffic jams, adding: “As a consequence patients will die in the back of ambulances.”

The hospital trust argues that at present ambulances have to contend with more congested urban streets.

Northumbria Police also raised concern about accessibility for ambulances, but an independent transport assessment concluded that would be addressed by road improvements.

Trust Finance Committee Chairman and county councillor Ian Swithenbank spoke from the public gallery in favour of the scheme, which he said was funded without a private finance initiative. But he urged members to look carefully at transport.

Coun Daley said there are strict national rules obliging ambulances to use sirens and this was already causing noise complaints at West Hartford. He added that the A189 had been closed in winter because of accidents, and while he thought the hospital would be great for the people of Northumberland, he could not support it because of road problems and impact on the community.

Senior planning officer Joe Nugent said 28 per cent of patients would arrive by road ambulance, but only three per cent or three or four vehicles a day would be sounding the siren.

Other councillors praised the trust and said the hospital would be an asset to people in the county and noise concerns seemed exaggerated.