Demo planned ahead of Berwick hospital decision
A demonstration is to be held before councillors meet to decide whether to back plans for a Â£45million hospital and leisure development in Berwick.
Campaign group ‘A Better Hospital for Berwick’ is encouraging as many people as possible to turn out at the Swan Centre on Monday morning.
Northumberland County Council’s decsiion-making cabinet is meeting there at 10am and it is anticipated they will be greeted by dozens of protesters holding banners and placards which have been made over the weekend.
The campaigners are asking people to gather between 8.45am and 9am to demonstrate the strength of feeling on the issue to invited media. TV, radio and press coverage is anticipated.
A Better Hospital for Berwick was formed last month in response to concerns raised in the local community following the announcement of an integrated health, social care and leisure centre development on the Swan Centre site in Tweedmouth.
It is calling for a level of services to be delivered at the hospital which suits the needs of the people who live here.
There are concerns that the proposed hospital will offer little more in the way of services than a health centre, with patients still faced with the prospect of a 120-mile round trip for many services.
The group’s Facebook page contains many accounts of the journeys people have had to make to the Northumbria specialist care hospital in Cramlington and other distant hospitals for care they believe should be delivered closer to home.
Kirsty Jamieson, one of the group’s co-founders, said she had been ‘blown away’ be the level of interest in the campaign.
Speaking at a public meeting on Wednesday night, said: “We have got the message out there and it’s starting to gain a bit more momentum.
“It’s important we stick together for our community to get something useful rather than spending all that money on something that isn’t wanted.”
The group now has over 2,700 members and a poll on its Facebook page asking people whether they wanted a joint hospital and leisure centre facility has resulting in a resounding ‘no’ with 872 people against and only 61 in favour.
“I think those numbers speak for themselves,” said Kirsty.
Campaigners are also calling for Twitter users to spread the word using the hashtag #abetterhospitalforberwick.
In addition, a petition created by Coun Alex Gibson of Berwick Town Council has been circulated in many shops and cafes.
It asks residents whether they would prefer a hospital to be built at the Swan Centre, Seton Hall or the existing Berwick Infirmary site.
Responses sp far suggest a strong preference for Seton Hall, followed by Berwick Infirmary and then the Swan Centre.
The £45million integrated development is being proposed by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Northumberland County Council. The NHS Trust and CCG boards have already approved the proposal.
They say that co-locating leisure and health services will make it much easier for nurses, therapists and doctors to link in with exercise facilities critical to healthy living.
Capital funding for the project is in place - an estimated £27million for the hospital/health services and £18million for a new leisure centre.
It would take seven years to complete. The proposal is to build a new leisure centre first on a different part of the site, followed by the hospital and related health and social care services.
The CCG has said there would be no loss of services and a modern design would allow for more flexibility of use and enable better technology to be used.
However, there would be 16 inpatient beds, down from 20 in the current hospital, while the endoscopy service, suspended in 2017, will not be reintroduced due to superior offerings at Alnwick and Wansbeck.
The earlier plan for a new hospital at Berwick Infirmary promised to deliver all the services already provided including a 30-bed inpatient ward, outpatient clinics, a minor injuries unit, maternity services, diagnostics, physiotherapy, chemotherapy and day surgery/endoscopy. It was also to accommodate Well Close Medical Group.
Those plans were paused in August 2016 so health bosses could ensure they were fit for the future and focussed on keeping people healthy and well.