On Saturday, the Whalton Unit campaign group will again be on the streets of Morpeth collecting signatures to ask for a full public consultation about the future of the unit.
We have seen comments suggesting that the campaign has been superfluous as consultation will be guaranteed if the change to the service is deemed to be ‘substantial’.
We continue to work hard to emphasise that the impact of the loss of the Whalton Unit to our community would be very much “substantial”, and that is something we have sought to communicate in our discussions around issues like transport and accessibility, especially for the elderly.
The following are some of the ways in which the campaign and the public support for it are making a difference.
We have the weight of public opinion behind us in the form of over 1,700 signatures on our petitions.
We have been invited to present our case to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee if there are further developments with the unit, for example a change of timescale or a proposed permanent change.
We have met with the Chief Executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and were able to explain to him the purpose of the campaign, to discuss the issues, and to question and discover what long-term factors were at play, other than the ‘winter resilience’ factor, which had prompted the ‘temporary’ move to Wansbeck in December.
We were invited as a campaign group to attend a staff meeting on staff experiences of the change of service at Wansbeck General Hospital.
We have spoken to Healthwatch, raising questions specific to the Whalton Unit, and these have been added to those routinely asked on patient satisfaction questionnaires.
We would also like to reiterate that this is not, and has never been, a party political campaign. The following have expressed their explicit support: Ian Lavery (MP for Wansbeck); Morpeth and Pegswood Labour Party; Newcastle City Council Leader Nick Forbes; town council members Andrew Tebbutt, Joan Tebbutt, Alison Byard, Les Cassie and Kate Holmes.
It is also true that the remaining Morpeth town councillors have not given us the courtesy of a reply to our letter of January 13.
Clearly, the support has come predominantly from Labour and Liberal Democratic sources, but this is not because of any bias on the part of campaigners; it is simply a reflection of where the support for a public consultation on the future of the Whalton Unit happens to lie.
We repeat, we would be very pleased to receive support from any and all well-wishers, and are very grateful to everyone who has offered their good wishes.
Barbara Ross, Chris Hall, Jan Clarke
Whalton Unit Campaign