Work continues on the future of two hospital wards in Northumberland, whose fates are of considerable interest to campaigners and the local community.
The future of Rothbury Community Hospital is being looked at again, after the Health Secretary agreed that more work needed to be done locally on the next steps, following the permanent closure of the site’s 12 inpatient beds in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Whalton Unit was moved from its usual base in Morpeth to Wansbeck General Hospital at Ashington before Christmas, ‘to ensure that staffing was as resilient as possible for winter’, and this is due to be reviewed in the summer.
At last Wednesday’s (March 27) meeting of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body, chief operating officer Siobhan Brown said: “We are still working very hard on Rothbury.”
A report stated that there have been ‘a number of developments during March’, with the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign group being taken on visits to both Belford and Haltwhistle, and a meeting with Rothbury Patient Participation Group taking place.
The first stakeholder group meeting is currently being organised.
Ms Brown explained that there was also further analysis of data taking place, adding: “This is a very focused piece of work, a very important piece of work for the CCG.”
The previous day (Tuesday, March 26) saw an interim update on the Whalton Unit presented to Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee.
It was reported that three new nurses had been recruited and that patient satisfaction surveys had shown very little difference since the temporary move with some measures better and a few slightly down.
Chairman, Coun Jeff Watson, assured residents that if it was intended that the relocation become permanent then this would be scrutinised by the committee if it falls within its remit.
In a statement, Helen Ray, chief operating officer at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Since their temporary move to Wansbeck General Hospital in December, the team at the Whalton Unit have continued to provide the outstanding care that their patients have come to expect.
“I, and indeed the whole trust, am incredibly grateful for their continued hard work and the exceptional dedication they have showed throughout.
“A review on the future of the unit is currently under way. During this time, friends and family of patients on the unit can access free transport from Morpeth to Wansbeck hospital via the ward team (01670 529008).
“I know the outcome of this review is of tremendous importance to the community and would like to thank the public for their ongoing support.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service