Decision on future arrangements at Rothbury Community Hospital

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.”


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6 Responses to Decision on future arrangements at Rothbury Community Hospital

  1. Lynn Roxburgh

    I found yesterday’s public demonstration of decision making illustrative of what I abhor most in those who work in public office but fail to serve their public. At some point the political persuaders engineering cost cutting and trying to implement nation wide models have to wake up and recognise that there can not be an homogenous delivery of public services for rural and urban areas alike.
    There can never be a cost parameter that will suit those in remote sparsely populated areas and match delivery in those cities where delivery reaches hundreds of thousands of citizens- be that for health, social services or education. At no time did CCG take the positives from Rothbury Hospital and say here we have a PFI funded facility that will continue to cost us upwards of £600k per annum how can we increase its usage to deliver an improved service to an expanded area to justify the investment of less than 10 years and the original investment by the Coquetdale Community in the original hospital. At no time was rigor applied to the questions giving both for and against arguments and that alone shows a failure of scrutiny by the Board.
    The waste of taxpayers money in engaging this farcical process for 12 months when that money should have been spent delivering care is desperately worrying.
    Despite an apparent pc balance of Janet and John staffing within the Board’s make-up no one showed any understanding or experience of life “up the valley” or appeared to have made an attempt to speak on behalf of the community it serves.Comparisons between Rothbury and Cramlington or Amble were spurious at best. The failure to understand what or how Rothbury House can contribute to care of the elderly was a clear indicator of failings of the report to the Board. (Quote CQC <>)
    Discussions about palliative care and physiotherapy provision show the lack of imagination about what the Community Hospital could have delivered as by the CCG own admission the “model” being used to manage the facility did not permit adequate care of those in need, for instance for patients requiring uncomplicated clinical treatment such as a drip or treatment for urinary tract infection or rehabilitation care for stroke recovery, which, by its own self prophecy meant the facility was becoming under-utilised.
    There is huge irony that the CCG now recommends delivery of care from voluntary organisations and charitable groups. After all, the funding for the original Community Hospital came from the community, for the community, and, once established, was taken on by the NHS. Do you honestly expect the people of Coquetdale to repeat this in the 21st century?

  2. Lesley Cowe

    I was appalled by the lies told at Morpeth Town Hall yesterday in order to facilitate the permanent closure of the beds at Rothbury hospital. The transport issues are not sorted. I suggest the board explores how easy it is to use public transport to visit friends or family in Alnwick or Wansbeck not to mention Cramlington. Also costing taxi prices on these routes would be useful. The comment that it was as difficult from Cramlington, a £4 taxi fare away, showed total lack of research about the issue as did the comparison between Rothbury and Amble for remoteness! I am not convinced that anyone on the board had been along the valley to see the remoteness of some of the places served. Comparing the remoteness of Rothbury with Amble served only to prove the total ignorance of this issue. The comment that no one had registered any incident since the closure last September was amazing. The beds were removed with no warning so the choice was gone. I have spent a lot of time in Cramlington and Wansbeck this year visiting my late father who was not from the valley. I cannot imagine the added strain this would have put on people from the valley without their own transport but I also know that at such a traumatic time they would not complain that it would have been better if Rothbury was open. We sympathised with the pressure Cramlington was under to avoid bed blocking. Strange that figures in Rothbury went down after Cramlington was open. Did they know of Rothbury hospital’s existence? No one questioned where the £500000 a year to keep the beds at Rothbury came from. I would queries that. It was also telling that it was made clear that the £500000 was not in next year’s budget. This showed that the decision to permanently close the beds at Rothbury had been made long before yesterday’s meeting. When this was queried by the board the answer was far from satisfactory. Disgraceful. The wonderful palliative care at Wansbeck hospital they referred to was certainly not our experience during the last weeks of my father’s life 6 months ago. Why was Rothbury House mentioned? If only he could have been in Rothbury but he was not from the valley. It would have taken very little research to find out that Rothbury House is for RAF convalescence and holidays for RAF people nationwide. We have somehow become dependent on these people to make a crucial decision for our valley.

  3. Anne Stubbs

    When my husband needed respite care I was told Rothbury House could NOT take him as he needed nursing care and they are a care home NOT a nursing home. Rothbury Hospital would not take him as that was not what the hospital was for.
    I saved the NHS thousands of pounds caring for my husband at home until he died but getting respite care in the are was impossible.
    John had Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. At the end and for a long time before that he could not stand, let alone walk, he could not speak or swallow. He was ‘peg’ fed. In spite of all that his brain understood everything said to him.
    I was not alone needing to use Rothbury hospital and it is still needed today by many people, if only the ‘powers that be’ would let it be used.
    I am disgusted with the CCG and especially Dr. Blair who makes up lots of reasons for closing the beds and from day one has not listened to the community. There would have been more money over the past year if you had not wasted time and the enormous salaries of those attending the various ‘so called’ consultation meetings when your minds were made up from the very beginning to close the beds in Rothbury. You all deserve to lose your jobs.

  4. Gavin Jones

    Lovely words, but are they really representative of the Community wishes? Whether you took the decision to ignore the wishes of the Community in a public or private meeting probably makes little difference. The fact is the decision to ignore the wishes of the Community is against the guiding principles: ‘The CCG need to reflect on whether they are fit for purpose, given: ‘The NHS must be more responsive to the
    needs and wishes of the public, all of
    whom will use its services at some point
    in their lives. We need to ensure that
    public, patient and carer voices are at the
    centre of our healthcare services, from
    planning to delivery. Every level of our
    commissioning system will be informed by
    listening to those who use and care about
    our services.These guides aim to support
    clinical commissioning groups and others
    to plan and deliver good patient and public
    participation. We should work jointly with
    communities to improve our NHS together.’

  5. Margaret Hedley

    As a lady in a previous comment touched on I too have been unable to take my Mother to Rothbury house without stopping with her as her carer as her Altzheimers was too advanced for the level of care available!
    At Wednesday’s meeting I was totally shocked to here one of the panel say end of life care was available there! It is not, it is an RAF members & their associates holiday/respite fascility unless it has re invented itself in the last few months! ( were all of the voting panel aware of this) or have they been mislead!!!
    My mum lives an hour from me & I go three times a week to see her, I would just love if there was a care home near Rothbury so that I could have her near as I know for a FACT that her ‘quality ‘ of life is 100% improved through having regular visits from us her family!
    There is NO care homes near but there did used to be…
    I sat listening to the panel and all the way through could not get the thought of the whole charade just being nothing more than a ‘done deal’ why can the CCG not have just said right in the beginning that they simply cannot afford for us to have such a luxury and just be honest about their reasoning!
    To say we don’t ‘need’ it is an absolute insult to our intelligence, but if they said ‘you just can’t have it because WE. the national health can’t afford for you to have it! would have been far more honest, save a lot of time & gain them a lot more RESPECT!
    We DO need it! our aging Coquetdale population NEED it! be honest!!!
    I would also love to see the argument for building the expensive Rothbury hospital just 9 years ago!!! was it Needed then!!!

  6. Wendy Howard

    An ancestor of mine, Catherine Dawson, donated the first cottage hospital to Rothbury and I am keen for her legacy to stay for the people of Rothbury and surrounding areas. I thought this government were in favour of keeping cottage hospitals. Patients, staff and visitors just LOVE the convenience of them and because of this I am sure that patients recover more speedily after treatment, freeing up beds for other patients and with 4,000,000 patients awaiting operations (a huge amount never before seen in the NHS) this hospital can only be vital for the area.
    A vast amount of money is thrown at the NHS and unfortunately much of it is wasted on managers at the top who rarely leave their warm offices. Please allow more matrons/sisters to be in charge as they were always at the forefront in saving money, keeping germs at bay and generally running an efficient ‘ship’.

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