Councillors raise hopes over hospital
Berwick's county councillors have spoken of their '˜growing optimism' that a new hospital will be built on a separate site to a new leisure centre.
It follows ‘extremely positive’ meetings with Northumberland County Council chief executive Daljit Lally and council leader Peter Jackson in recent days.
Coun Jackson has now agreed to ask Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust to review its plans and urgently look at an alternative stand-alone site for the proposed new hospital.
Berwick county councillors Georgina Hill, Gregah Roughead and Catherine Seymour have called for a two site solution and for the authority to listen to their concerns and those expressed by residents over the co-location of both facilities on the Swan Centre site.
Coun Jackson, in reponse to their letter, wrote: ‘We at the county council have ambitious plans for the new leisure centre and we will have to make sure that there is as little disruption as possible to facilities such as the playing pitches.
‘We are also conscious to provide adequate parking on the site and we wish to extend complimentary Council provision on the site related to supporting health and wellbeing.
‘In addition, I have understood residents’ concerns that a shared site could well result in a delay in Berwick having its new hospital and I appreciate that this is a serious issue.
‘Berwick has waited too long now for such an investment and we must all work together to ensure that a new hospital can be built without further delay.
‘Residents would like to see an expansion of services at their new hospital and so we must all work together to see that there is room for expansion available for this on any new hospital site.
‘So, after our latest review of the situation, I will make representations to the Northumbria NHS Healthcare Trust to request that they review their plans and that they urgently look at an alternative stand-alone site for the new Berwick hospital.’
He reiterated that matters relating to health services are solely the decision of the health trust and also referred to the impact of the decision to create a major hospital in Cramlington with an A&E unit, which opened in 2015, as opposed to much closer to Berwick.
‘There have been ongoing issues about access to health services in Berwick since the opening of the new A&E in Cramlington,’ he wrote. ‘The decision at that time of siting that facility so far south was made with the assent of the then ruling Liberal Democrat administration at the county council which did include Berwick councillors in positions of responsibility for these matters.
‘However, although we cannot undo the past, I continue to wish to work with local residents to come up with the best outcomes possible for Berwick. I welcome the chance to have further dialogue with the three of you, as the local county councillors, in the near future to work on detailed plans for a new leisure centre that Berwick will be proud of and to make sure that a new hospital is delivered as soon as ever possible.’
In a joint statement, Berwick’s county councillors said; “We are greatly encouraged by the comments of the leader and those of the chief executive.
“Hopefully we can now progress to a separate site for the new hospital and, together with the community, make the case to the NHS and fight for much better and more accessible health care services for our residents.”
It is not yet clear where the location for a separate site for the hospital could be but Coun Hill has expressed a preference for Seton Hall.