New hospital delay angers town council

Councillors have called for an urgent meeting with health care bosses to discuss the latest delay in plans to rebuild Berwick Infirmary.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 7:17 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:55 am
Berwick Infirmary.
Berwick Infirmary.

The £25million project was initially put on hold last August and plans will not now be updated until the summer at the earliest.

It has led some members of Berwick Town Council to question whether the redevelopment will ever happen, given the strain the NHS is under.

Mayor Ivor Dixon said: “I was very disappointed to hear that the building of the new hospital is to be delayed. I was under the impression that the NHS would inform us of any further delay and I await correspondence whether this is correct.”

Cllr Paul Hodgson said: “The county council has come up with the money for a new hospital but are we honestly expected to believe the NHS trust will come up with that funding? I think not.

“We have an aging population and we need in-patient support and beds in Berwick so families can visit people locally without the need to make a 60-mile trip each way.”

Cllr Gordon McLean added: “This has been going on since 2009 and is now the top priority for this town. We need this pause reopened as soon as possible and get a commitment to a new hospital for this town in 2017/18.

“Northumberland County Council has agreed a £25million loan for this to happen. There should be no change to the initial plan and the promises that were made, such as a birthing room.

“We are the furthest point of access to Cramlington so need to make sure the service we get for Berwick is what we deserve with the money that’s been allocated.”

Cllr Hazel Bettison said: “We have been messed around long enough. We need to know what is happening, when it is happening and, if not, what they are going to do about it.”

The latest delay was announced two weeks ago by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group.

However, reassurances have been given that funding is still in place for a new, fit-for-purpose healthcare facility.

The pause aims to ensure plans for the new healthcare facility meet the ambitious shared vision for the future of health and care services across the county.

A key part of this collective vision involves the creation of a new accountable care organisation (ACO) for Northumberland which will be the first of its kind in the NHS.

The ACO is expected to come into operation later this year and will have responsibility for health and care services, ensuring they are fit for the future, centred on patient need and focussed on keeping people healthy and well.

As work gathers pace towards the ACO, it is vital that the future development of services in Berwick is fully considered under these new arrangements.

This is to make absolutely sure that the redevelopment in Berwick maximises every opportunity to join up health and social care services even further and delivers a truly innovative facility which is fit for the future and offers the highest quality of care for the people of Berwick.

David Evans, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We hope people in Berwick will bear with us, just a little while longer, so that we can ensure the redevelopment is fit for purpose and that it will help us meet the challenges facing the NHS of people living longer and with more complex needs.

“As we work towards the ACO coming into place later this year, we anticipate it will be summer, at the soonest, before we can update people further about the plans for Berwick.”

Plans for the redevelopment of Berwick Infirmary have been very warmly welcomed by people living in the town and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has continued to engage local people throughout the development process over many years.

Since the pause in August 2016, together with its partners NHS Northumberland CCG has been looking in detail at how services are currently used across community hospitals in Northumberland and thinking about what the future of health and social care services might look like in Berwick.

This includes thinking about opportunities to transform how health and social care services work together in future, how to provide even more care outside of hospital and people’s own homes and maximise the use of technology like the telemedicine service already in place.