Berwick Infirmary fears raised with Health Secretary

Berwick town councillor Georgina Hill has written to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, seeking a guarantee on the future of Berwick Infirmary.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 10:47 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:22 am

Plans to build a new hospital, on the site of the current Berwick infirmary, are on hold.

Now, Coun Hill has expressed concerns about the whole future of the Berwick hospital.

In a letter to Mr Hunt, she wrote that there had been a ‘sustained period of setbacks and cutbacks in healthcare provision in Berwick’.

“The suspicion is that there soon will be no hospital, whatsoever, in Berwick and it will just close without a new one being built,” she writes. “Could you please give an assurance that this is not the case and guarantee the future of the Berwick hospital.”

Coun Hill said: “The Tory party are currently benefiting from the woes of the other parties, nationally and locally, but they just cannot shake off the impression that they are, and always have been, essentially a party of the south of the country, the so-called Northern Powerhouse, appears to stop around Manchester. If the Tories allow the Berwick hospital to close it will, rightly, never be forgiven or forgotten by residents.”

Plans for a £25million rebuild of the hospital have been on hold since last autumn. Last month, it was announced by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group that there will be no update until summer at the earliest.

However, they have given reassurances that funding is still in place for a new, fit-for-purpose healthcare facility.

The pause aims to ensure plans for the new healthcare facility meet the ambitious shared vision for the future of health and care services across the county.

A key part of this collective vision involves the creation of a new accountable care organisation (ACO) for Northumberland which will be the first of its kind in the NHS. The ACO is expected to come into operation later this year and will have responsibility for health and care services, ensuring they are fit for the future, centred on patient need and focussed on keeping people healthy and well.

As work gathers pace towards the ACO, it is vital that the future development of services in Berwick is fully considered under these new arrangements.

This is to make absolutely sure that the redevelopment in Berwick maximises every opportunity to join up health and social care services even further and delivers a truly innovative facility which is fit for the future and offers the highest quality of care for the people of Berwick.

Speaking last month, David Evans, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We hope people in Berwick will bear with us, just a little while longer, so that we can ensure the redevelopment is fit for purpose and that it will help us meet the challenges facing the NHS of people living longer and with more complex needs.

“As we work towards the ACO coming into place later this year, we anticipate it will be summer, at the soonest, before we can update people further about the plans for Berwick.”