Always a need to travel for specialist health care
TIME has flown since I wrote my first column in August. Since my original article, the trust has had to temporarily suspend some services at our midwifery-led maternity unit in Berwick amidst safety concerns.
I mention this first and foremost as I recognise this is something which has been widely debated in the local community, but it also gave me food for thought to share some of the positive work which is taking place to provide as many services as we can locally and safely, right here in Berwick.
Deciding on how best to deliver rural healthcare is undoubtedly a very tricky job – thankfully one which I am not in charge of – and I can of course appreciate how passionate people feel about where they live.
Inevitably though, in smaller communities like ours, where we have very low populations in comparison to big city centres and urban areas, there will always be cases where we need to travel that little bit further a field to see specialists for treatment. This is a fact of rural living and a choice we make as individuals.
For me, this is something I have experienced personally with two members of my family recently being treated in quick succession in Newcastle. I appreciate, from my own experience, that the travelling is far and tiring, but I took great comfort from knowing that my loved ones were in the right place and being treated by those who knew best about their condition.
It is often the case that advances in modern medicine and national safety standards mean decisions about where we can receive treatment are out of our hands. What I am pleased to say however, is that we are committed to doing all we can to provide as much safe care as we can as close to Berwick as possible.
I am often asked why patients have to go to Wansbeck or Newcastle for outpatient appointments. Sometimes this is necessary as there may be a specialised need that it is not feasible to deliver in Berwick. However we are always reviewing our clinics locally, and if we identify anything that can be safely provided locally, then our aim is to provide this.
Following discharge from hospital, many patients are called back for follow-up treatment for things like 24-hour blood pressure checks or ultrasound scans – all of which can be provided in Berwick. We are working hard to achieve this in as many cases as possible.
At present we have over 50 outpatient clinics a month in Berwick and this number is expanding. Last year alone for example we know that 160 patients had appointments locally rather than travelling further a field.
This is largely thanks to a system called the Berwick Bookers whereby as a patient you can call us on 01289 356625 and discuss with the appointments clerk whether we can support you in having your appointment in Berwick.
I am very proud to say we have an excellent team of committed staff through all departments in Berwick, from ancillaries to medics and we all work together as a team to serve the local community.
The new Berwick hospital will form a key part of the whole redevelopment of services across Northumbria Healthcare and means our patients will be treated in world-class, 21st century facilities right on their doorstep for as many procedures as possible that are safe to do locally.
We do appreciate that while, for some conditions and treatments, people will always need to travel because of the level of expertise needed, there are others that can be provided closer to home and this is what we are very much focused on.
Doing what we can, safely and in the most convenient place for patients is very much what we are about and I am sure this will be at the heart of the review taking place into maternity services.
Annaluisa Wood is modern matron at Berwick Infirmary
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Weather for Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
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Wind direction: North