Under massive pressure from Health Professionals, in one of England’s worst performing clinical commissioning groups (rated inadequate in the NHS 2016/17 inspection reports), to make a decision in favour of closing Rothbury Hospital, Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing overview and scrutiny group held firm and listened to all parties involved in the decision.
Coquetdale residents were there in numbers, led by their independent Councillor for that area Steven Bridgett. They were determined to get their story across to the Scrutiny Committee, as they have already had a letter from the NHS to close off their dental practice and have been offered the ‘opportunity’ to travel 19 ml to Morpeth or 11 ml to Alnwick for NHS dental treatment.
Several local residents who spoke to our reporter after the meeting said they were disgusted at the antics and attitude of the chairperson, Conservative Councillor Jeff Watson, who they felt had talked down to them and showed no grace or favour towards their plight.
The argument of the inadequate Clinical Commissioning Group was that the hospital was underused and that bed occupancy had dropped from 65% occupancy down to 48% occupancy in recent years.
Rothbury has had a hospital servicing this remote community since 1904 and the new facility was built in 2007 on a twenty five year PFI scheme. Northumberland CCG will still have to pay the PFI fees for another 25yrs if the hospital is closed by Christmas, as desired by the CCG and Councils health professionals.
Labours three members in attendance at the meeting Julie Foster, Kath Nisbet and Liz Simpson asked very pertinent questions, leading the Tories to panic under public pressure and Labour questions. Alnwick Councillor Robbie Moore moved to refer the matter back to the secretary of state Jeremy Hunt to make the decision on the public’s behalf.
He was immediately challenged for the reasons for referral, looking blank at his colleagues, Labour’s Julie Foster stepped up to the plate and saved his paling skin, explaining that “there is insufficient data available from the CCG to assess the impact closure would have on health care in Northumberland”
When being interviewed later, Councillor Foster said “I am concerned about the affect of closure on this rural community and its surrounding area and there was nothing shown in evidence that the removal of this hospital from the register, leading to closure, would lead to improvements in other facilities County–wide. The CCG didn’t put in enough detail to illustrate they knew what they were doing.”
Blyth Councillor Kath Nisbet said “I couldn’t support the CCG on this as they have begun to mothball Blyth community hospital in the same way as they have done in Rothbury, therefore their claim of an improved service across the County is miles away from reality”. Lets see what Jeremy Hunt has to say.