Hospital and leisure centre drop-in attracts large turnout
Around 300 people have attended a drop-in session to discuss plans for a new hospital and leisure centre in Berwick.
The event, held at the Swan Centre, was organised by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council to get feedback and answer questions about its proposed £45million development.
The large attendance has delighted campaign group, A Better Hospital for Berwick, which had called for a strong turnout to show health and council bosses the strength of local feeling aginst the proposal.
They are calling for service levels in any new hospital to match those offered in 2014 plans to rebuild Berwick Infirmary, including the return of services lost since then.
They also want the physical building to have the capacity to incorporate these services but also allow for future expansion.
Steven Havelin, a member of the campaign group, said: “We are really pleased with the turnout but a lot of people still felt they weren’t able to get their point across and they were hearing a repetition of what has been said before.
“They were having to fend off a lot of justifiable anger from people about the loss of servioces over the years and, in particular, the pain and suffering of those long journeys for simple procedures when they should be happening in Berwick.”
Campaigners now hope decision-makers will involve local representatives in discussions about what happens next.
Those at the drop-in were asked whether they were in favour of an integrated health and leisure development at the Swan Centre or an integrated development at the Swan Centre and Seton Hall but the outcome has not yet been revealed.
Berwick’s county councillors have previously called for a two-site solution and said they were ‘extremely positive’ this could happen following talks with council chief executive Daljit Lally and council leader Peter Jackson.
A spokesman for Northumbria Healthcare said: “The trust is excited to be moving forward with plans for a brand new £25 million hospital in Berwick.
“The new facility will retain all of the services currently provided at the existing Infirmary and be integrated with other local services to ensure the maximum benefit to residents.
“We are continuing to work with the community ahead of a final decision relating to the location of the hospital and are actively seeking their views on the plans to date.”
A county council spokesman added: “This drop-in session was a good opportunity for the council to share some initial ideas for the new leisure centre planned for the town with the local community and to hear residents’ views on the potential site options.
“There was a large turn out, with many views expressed to the council and the Trust. All the feedback will now be carefully considered by the partners as we move forward.”