Technology at the forefront of hospital plans

NHS bosses have given their first indication of what a new hospital for Berwick could provide.

Thursday, 29th March 2018, 15:00 pm
Berwick Infirmary.

The increased use of modern technology so some patients no longer have to make a 120-mile round trip to hospital is at the forefront of their ambitions.

Stephen Holmes, deputy director of community services at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “There is a belief we have deliberately eroded services at the hospital. That is not the case but I understand that’s how people feel.

“We are not just going to lift what’s currently at the hospital and lift it into a new hospital. What we want to do is design something that not only delivers what we need now but are confident it will deliver in the future as well and that’s by using technology.

“We already operate remote consultancy in orthopaedics and we want to expand that further. That will give us the opportunity to perhaps introduce things we have never had in Berwick before.

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“There are also treatments that people currently have to go to Newcastle to get, such as for eyes. We want to talk to them and ask if some of that could be done in outpatient clinics in Berwick.

“We will deliver all we possibly can that is viable and safe to prevent people having to make the journeys they currently have to for outpatient appointments.”

He was speaking at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Local Area Council at the Jubilee Club in Spittal about the potential for an integrated development of health, social care and leisure services.

A series of engagement events to get the views of local residents has just been completed but he acknowledged frustrations that a process for a new hospital which began as far back as 2009 was little further forward.

“By and large the public are telling us at these engagement events that this is a good idea and they like the idea of a new hospital and leisure centre together,” he said.

Council-owned sites at Roberts Lodge, the Swan Centre and Newfields are under consideration.

“There are challenges with each and we are detailing those in the engagement events,” he said.

The plans to redevelop Berwick Infirmary were paused 18 months ago to allow time to consider the implications of local, regional and national healthcare strategies and also to consider the findings of a review of Berwick Infirmary which looked at how it could best be used to meet the healthcare needs of local people.

Mr Holmes said: “Last October I was asked to look at the Berwick development and to get an outline business case done for mid-December as a vehicle to move through the process. We did that and commenced our engagement sessions a few weeks ago.

“I absolutely understand the frustration in the town about the length of time it’s taken. People are clearly and understandably frustrated that they are being asked questions that they believe they’ve been asked before. I’m not making excuses for that but we are where we are and there are loads of reasons for that.

“Back in 2012 we couldn’t built on the school site because the Government at the time because of the Olympics made a decision there could be no development on playing fields.

In 2015/16 the CCG paused the development at Berwick because of a recognition of changes in the way we deliver healthcare now; the five-year forward view that the Government has for health delivery; and a focus for that being much more community-based rather than in hospital sites. Not withstanding the financial position generally of the public sector what does this development need to look like now when we take all those things into consideration.

“This development started in consultation terms in 2009 and lots has changed in healthcare since then so we wanted to revisit it. Another opportunity arose last year when the council decided it wanted to look at a redevelopment of its leisure centre.

“We are going to build a hospital but do we do this as a joint development with the council as a leisure centre and hospital on the same site and where to locate that should we do that.

“We have identified three current sites in the town that meet the criteria in terms of footprint: Roberts Lodge, the Swan Centre and Newfields. There are challenges with each and we are detailing those in the engagement events.

“By and large the public are telling us at these engagement events that this is a good idea and they like the idea of a new hospital and leisure centre together and the opportunities that will bring for the town.

“We know more now about how we manage long-term conditions for people and the Public Health message about people looking after their well-being through fitness and diet. Bringing the leisure and hospital together will help us deliver that.

“It is financially challenging at the moment and building one building together is far more efficient than doing them separately.”

“We are identifying dates for a full public meeting in April to ensure we have captured what people have been talkin about. from that we will build a full costed business case model. When we have that we will go out to formal consultation. We expect it to start in May/June and I suspect it willl be for three months. At the end of that process, depemnding on the outcome we will look to appoint advisors and consultants on development and design.”

“After design and developement we will be in a much better posituion to know how long it will be and that will be determined by the site and what is on it.”