Campaigners have met with the chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare to discuss their concerns over the future of the Whalton Unit.
The 30 beds at the inpatient ward, which delivers specialist rehabilitation for frail older patients, moved from a facility in Morpeth to Ward 8 at Ashington’s Wansbeck General Hospital in December, with the health trust saying the decision was taken to ensure that staffing is as resilient as possible for winter.
A review of the long-term location of the ward is set to be completed by March.
The campaign calling for a consultation about the temporary decision and any potential further arrangements includes online and paper petitions.
An update to the Herald earlier this month highlighted their concerns about how the three individual rooms on Ward 8 in the hospital will be used.
It included the following: ‘Our fear is that they will simply be used to isolate patients who have infections and we are worried about how this will affect patients who are on the ward for end-of-life care and will therefore need privacy’.
A meeting has now taken place with Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare, and Claire Riley, director of communications and corporate affairs at the health trust.
Campaign representatives Jan Clarke, Chris Hall and Barbara Ross said: “It is clear that financial considerations are driving the review, which we feel is all the more reason that the public should be able to air their views about the welfare of elderly and frail patients who risk losing the privacy and dignity that a facility such as the Whalton Unit offers.
“Sir James understands that people are concerned about the future of the unit and agrees it is important that communication channels are kept open, and agrees that this should be happening across both political and non-political groups.”
They added: “There will be opportunities this Saturday and on Saturday, March 2, to sign the petition in Morpeth town centre and to collectively lobby your local councillors, so please look out for campaigners when doing your shopping and sign if you support the campaign for transparency and consultation.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We welcomed the opportunity to meet the campaigners and had a productive conversation with them about their concerns for the future of the Whalton Unit.
“We are committed to having an ongoing dialogue with them and keeping the local community informed as to the next steps, including sharing the findings of our review of the interim move as soon as we are in a position to do so.”