Health leaders in Northumberland have decided that 12 inpatient beds at Rothbury Community Hospital should be permanently closed and that existing health and care services should be shaped around a Health and Wellbeing Centre on the site.
The decision was made at a meeting, held in public, today (Wednesday 27 September 2017) of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) Joint Locality Executive Board.
The Board, which includes GP leads from across the county, took into consideration feedback from a three month period of public consultation which showed how much people have valued the inpatient services at the hospital and which included the community’s vision for how services should be provided in future. However, they also considered analysis which showed that since the interim closure of the beds a year ago there had been no unexpected pressures in local health and care services and no evidence of adverse medical consequences on individual patients.
Board members agreed that a Health and Wellbeing Centre had the potential to benefit many more people in Rothbury and the surrounding area. Within three months the following additional services would be provided in a Health and Wellbeing Centre:
- An additional specialist nurse palliative care nurse to work with existing community nursing staff and staff in the GP practice to support people dying at home
- A range of ‘virtual’ outpatient clinics, such as rheumatology, stroke, diabetes, urology, pre-assessment, orthopaedics, gastroenterology and cardiology using telemedicine to provide consultations with doctors and nurses based in other hospitals
- Outpatient blood monitoring for patients who need regular blood tests
- Health trainer sessions for people across different age ranges covering issues such as stop smoking support, nutrition and hydration advice and slips, trips and falls advice.
These would be in addition to existing services at the hospital i.e. weekly midwife-led antenatal clinics, physiotherapy clinics including twice a week clinics for patients with musculo-skeletal and orthopaedic problems, eight podiatry clinics a month and quarterly clinics for people with Parkinson’s disease. Community nursing staff and community paramedics would continue to be based there.
There would also be closer working between GP practice staff who will be working in the hospital building alongside community nurses and the opportunity to link into the health trainer sessions to meet the needs of patients, for example, those with long term conditions.
In the longer term, consideration would be given to including the following services:
- Infusions for patients with a range of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease
- More diagnostic testing, for example, for heart patients
- NHS dentistry
- Sessions and support groups for people with mental health issues, including patients with dementia
- Community and voluntary sector services.
The Board agreed it would set up a working group as soon as possible comprising representatives from the local community, CCG, GP practice, council and NHS Trusts to discuss general health and wellbeing needs and how best to address them while also making sure that all future services are delivered efficiently, effectively and economically.
The Board also noted:
- People assessed as needing respite care – for which NHS hospitals are not funded – can receive this at Rothbury House, a convalescence home managed by the Royal Air Force Association which provides high quality care and accommodation
- There is available community transport, including through the Getabout service which receives funding from Northumberland County Council and which can be used by people who have difficulty in visiting family and friends who are patients in hospitals outside Rothbury.
Year on year savings following the permanent closure of the inpatient beds and the development of a Health and Wellbeing Centre would be more than £450,000.
Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee will now consider the outcome of the Board’s discussions at a meeting held in public in County Hall, Morpeth on 17 October 2017.
Dr Alistair Blair, the CCG’s Clinical Chair, said: “We fully recognise how much the people of Rothbury and beyond have valued the inpatient services provided at the hospital. This was a clear message before, during and following the consultation. We also know that there are many people in Rothbury who wish to see the inpatient beds re-opened as well as the development of a Health and Wellbeing Centre.
“However, we must take into consideration the facts that healthcare needs have changed and the way care is provided is also changing. Due to medical advances patients are spending much less time in hospital and much more care is now provided to support people to stay in their own homes.
“Only half of the beds at Rothbury Community Hospital were being used at any one time and since the interim closure of the inpatient ward a year ago, we have had no evidence of any adverse impact on other local health and care services or of any adverse medical consequences for individual patients.
“To continue funding beds at the hospital would mean we were not making the best possible use of funding and available staff. The inpatient ward provided care for a minority of frail older people. In exploring what services could be provided in a Health and Wellbeing Centre we have taken into account comments received during the consultation and are proposing to include services that will benefit many more people of all ages.”
He added: “Our decision making report will now be considered next month by the County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Following this discussion we hope we are in a position to begin working with community representatives and others as quickly as possible to make sure that the shaping of existing health and care services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre reaches its full potential within available resources.”