‘Art of the possible’ moves one step closer

New plans for Rothbury Community Hospital (RCH) move one step closer after being endorsed by the overview and scrutiny committee at Northumberland County Council (NCC)

NHS leaders across Northumberland said that the ‘art of the possible’ plans  for Rothbury were one step closer to reality as Councillors of Northumberland’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) voted to support the innovative plan to safeguard the future of RCH.

The proposal – put together by staff at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as well as local community leaders and campaigners – represents a bespoke solution to the challenges faced by Rothbury residents and is expected to be fully operational by April 2020.

“This has been a long journey for all involved,” said Sir James Mackey, chief executive at Northumbria Healthcare.

“There is still work to do – notably around staffing – but I am confident that RCH will emerge from this process as a crucial hub for healthcare for the whole area, all tailored to the needs of local people and with the flexibility to adapt as these needs evolve over time.”Representatives from both the trust and the CCG paid tribute to the contributions of the local community.

“Following the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care we worked closely with local residents, elected officials and campaigners to better understand the concerns of the wider community,” said Janet Guy, lay chair at the CCG.“These were invaluable contributions which have helped shape the plan that has been approved today. Nor was it a one way dialogue. Critically they quickly understood that we needed to operate within ‘the art of the possible’, taking into account the limitations of clinical safety and long term sustainability.

“The result is a plan which can truly be said to have been made in Rothbury, for Rothbury, delivered by the NHS.”

The plan for RCH contains a provision for enhanced community nursing support for patients near the end of their life, patients to be cared for in beds within the hospital, with a flexing staffing model as long as their clinical needs can be met, a range of outpatient clinics and greater investment in community care; supporting more people to stay and receive care at home for longer.

The beds will be staffed on the basis of clinical need and the clinics enhanced by greater use of technology; including a form of virtual ward. The result is an innovative healthcare hub which will be at the heart of the village and the surrounding area for decades to come.

“When I returned to Northumbria [from secondment at NHS Improvement] ensuring a sustainable future for Rothbury Hospital was one of my top priorities,” concluded Sir James.

“The plans developed are without doubt innovative especially given the challenges the NHS faces with finite resources.”

“The Trust will work hard to deliver this model, but it will be difficult and we will continuously engage with the local community as we embark on this challenge.”

Katie Scott, spokesperson for Save Rothbury Hospital’ said:

“It has been a long hard struggle to secure the future of our hospital. From marches and petitions, posters and poems we did everything we could to fight the decision to close the in-patient beds. Support came from every walk of life and dozens – hundreds – of committed local people.

“We are delighted that our Vision has evolved to become the NHS’ plan – ‘The Art of the Possible’. We will continue to work with both the trust and the CCG to make sure these ideas become a reality.”

Councillor Steven Bridgett said:

“It has been three long years since the 12 inpatient beds at RCH were closed. I said then that the community would never give up the fight for the hospital and – thanks to a relentless campaign led by ‘Save Rothbury Community Hospital’ – we never did.

“We are not there yet but I believe this offers a sensible, pragmatic compromise, which will see beds return to Rothbury hospital for step up, step down and end of life care, in addition to a number of other new services and I am very excited about what it means for the residents of the Coquet, Aln and Rede Valleys.

“But ultimately, it is the residents who live in these valleys that should decide and I welcome their opinions on these new proposals.”

Anne Marie Trevelyan MP (Berwick upon Tweed) said:

“In any community the local hospital is a vital facility but in rural areas like Rothbury it is the beating heart at the centre of village life. As such, I am delighted to see that the NHS has listened to the very real concerns raised by the local community and come up with an innovative and bespoke model which meets these needs.

“Thanks to a fantastic grassroots campaign the future is very bright for RCH.”

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