Location is worst option

The saga of a new hospital for Berwick has dragged on for too long now.

Friday, 24th August 2018, 09:00 am

Various drop-in sessions were held, plans unveiled and then shelved, and potential sites were suggested.

This ‘consultation’ culminated in a public meeting in the Guildhall, which was attended by a large number of people.

The suggestion was put forward that a combined hospital and leisure facility could be built. One site, because of its status, was never going to happen so the preferred site was the Swan Centre.

This was widely rejected by those present, with a vote being overwhelmingly in favour of a ‘stand-alone’ new hospital, with an ideal location suggested as the old Seton Hall site.

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There was no appetite at all for a combined centre and people were assured that, as no decision had been made, all views were to be considered.

I sat directly in front of the panel. I saw the reaction when its preferred option was widely rejected, and I gained the impression that it was ‘hell bent’ on pursuing that aim. In fact, I gained the impression that it had already been decided.

At the conclusion, we were told that we would be kept informed about the continuing consultation.

I heard nothing more until late this afternoon when I received an email informing me that, surprise, surprise, it intended to go ahead with the combined unit at the Swan Centre.

A similar situation arose when the trust was considering building the new hospital at Cramlington.

It came to the town council and I pointed out that it was not the best location for the majority of the county’s population. I suggested that it had already made up its mind and was assured that ‘nothing was set in stone’ and this was just a consultation. We all know to our cost what happened next.

The Swan Centre must constitute the worst possible location for the new hospital, sorry, ‘health facility’.

It seems obvious that all the doctors’ surgeries will end up in this unit, with no consideration being given to those without transport to get there.

The thought of someone visiting a sick patient, or even worse, someone receiving palliative care, next to a gym and sports centre is abhorrent.

The only possible explanation for this decision would appear to be on cost grounds.

This is not what the people of this town either wanted nor deserved to have imposed on them.

I would have urged the decision-makers to reconsider and give us the hospital we were promised, but then, as in the case of Cramlington, we all now know what they mean by ‘consultation’.

Clive Routledge