NHS chiefs face the flak over hospital

Health chiefs have come under fire from residents frustrated at the painfully slow progress over plans to build a new hospital in Berwick.

Friday, 11th May 2018, 08:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 13:05 pm
Berwick Infirmary.

A public meeting was billed as an opportunity for people to let NHS bosses know what they thought of the new hospital being part of an integrated development, including health, social care and leisure services.

However, there was little appetite for the idea judging by the comments at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Thomas Stewart, noting that talks on a new hospital for Berwick began in 2009, said: “We don’t really care whether there are leisure facilities or social care services with it. What we want is a hospital.”

Coun Alan Bowlas, of Berwick Town Council, said: “We don’t want to consult any more. We want a hospital and we want it now.”

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Gordon McLean, a former councillor, told officers from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust and Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group that Berwick residents had no confidence in a suitable hospital being delivered.

“While all this is going on, patients are suffering from long journeys to distant hospitals, sometimes for a 10-minute consulation, and they’re frustrated,” he said.

Jennifer McLean, of Berwick Deserves Better, said she felt the series of engagement sessions over recent weeks had been a tick-box exercise.

“I don’t think there is general support for a joint venture,” she said.

A show of hands suggested that 95 per cent of the packed town hall agreed, although there were concerns as to whether a new sports centre would be built if the joint development did not proceed.

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Accusations were also made that the engagement process had been misleading in asking residents for their preference of three possible sites for an integrated development - the Swan Centre, Newfields and Roberts Lodge.

Several residents felt the current infirmary site should also have been considered for a standalone hospital, while there was strong support for the former Seton Hall care home site to be considered.

Concerns were raised about the potential loss of football pitches at the Swan Centre, while it was pointed out that Newfields has village green status and Roberts Lodge has been earmarked for housing.

Concerns were raised about the potential loss of football pitches at the Swan Centre, while Newfields has village green status and Roberts Lodge has been earmarked for housing.

“The ideal site is Seton Hall,” said local resident Michael Stewart, who expressed surprise it had not been previously identied as a possibile site.

The NHS teams said they would take the feedback on board before reporting back with their plans.

Siobhan Brown, CCG chief officer, said: “We are determined to get the right model of care for Berwick.

“There is money on the table for this, whichever model we go forward with.”

Stephen Young, strategic head of corporate affairs at the CCG, added: “I fully understand the frustrations because this has goneon so long but we are here to bring it to a conclusion as quickly as we possibly can, as safely as we can and to deliver as much as we are able to.”