Councillors call for new hospital site
Berwick's three county councillors have made a final plea for the town's proposed Â£25million hospital to be built on a separate site to a new Â£20million leisure centre.
Councillors Georgina Hill, Gregah Roughead and Catherine Seymour have written to the leader of Northumberland County Council, Coun Peter Jackson and chief executive, Daljit Lally, calling for a two-site solution.
Last week, the council’s cabinet approved funding to build a new leisure centre on the Swan Centre site in Tweedmouth, paving the way for a proposed integrated hospital and leisure development which has already been approved by health chiefs.
However, the leader and chief executive still have the authority to decide the approach on sharing the site with the new hospital.
In their letter, Berwick’s county councillors say they ‘greatly welcome’ investment in a new leisure centre, adding that ‘Berwick has been starved of investment for many years and this project should provide first rate leisure services for our town whilst also being an attraction for visitors.’
However, they ask for the hospital to be built on a separate site.
‘We ask that you come to the same conclusion as us, namely that the council should adopt an approach that links the health and well being agenda, rightly at the heart of the council’s plans, with a two site solution that expedites the delivery of both a new leisure centre and a new hospital on separate sites,’ they write.
‘In so doing we urge that a site for the hospital is selected that allows for future expansion and that together with the Berwick community we make the case to the NHS for the return of services and the provision of additional services at the new hospital.’
In a joint statement, the trio added: “It could be argued that the case for the joint site was never properly made but it is clear to us, through listening and via a range of evidence and indicators of opinion, that residents of Berwick want a stand alone new hospital.
“We have repeatedly fed this back to the NHS Trust and the CCG and said this at the NCC scrutiny committees which were held in advance of the cabinet meeting.
“Northumberland County Council is not in charge of the delivery of healthcare services but we do have influence over where the new hospital is built.
“A separate site, where there is room for expansion and which is available for construction to commence as swiftly as possible is what we need. Residents of Berwick have waited long enough for their new hospital.
“When searching ‘hospital closures’ online and seeing that other communities around the UK are faced with this prospect; it is very clear that the NHS nationally need to discuss and address the issues of health provision and how they deliver services in smaller to medium sized towns.”
In the final part of their letter they write: ‘The previous Labour administration were notorious for failing to listen to residents. You have shown over the last year that this council is different and we hope that you will agree with us in the approach which we now request.’
The chief Executive has agreed to meet the trio on Friday to discuss their concerns and alternative options.