Victory for campaigners? NHS temporary change review bought forward
The Whalton Unit moved from its home in Morpeth to its interim base at Ashington’s Wansbeck General Hospital in December.
A review of the long-term location of a hospital ward, whose temporary move has caused concern in its previous home of Morpeth, will be completed by March, health chiefs have said.
The town’s Whalton Unit, which delivers specialist rehabilitation for frail older patients, moved to its interim base in Ward 8 at Ashington’s Wansbeck General Hospital on Wednesday, December 19.
The move, which Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust underlined is temporary at present, was announced two weeks before its relocation and was based on a need to ensure that there was adequate staffing to cope with the expected increase in demand over the winter months.
But it has sparked a petition, now signed by more than 800 people, calling for consultation with the public about the removal of the unit from Morpeth, while Ian Lavery MP called on the trust to reconsider its decision.
However, executive medical director Dr Jeremy Rushmer explained: “Winter is an extremely busy time for the NHS, with increased numbers of frail older patients requiring admission and subsequent rehabilitation. For these reasons, we must ensure that we have appropriate staffing in place where demand will be highest.”
When it was announced last month, Northumbria Healthcare said that the relocation would be reviewed in the summer, but at Tuesday’s (January 8) meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee, chief operating officer Helen Ray announced that this review will be completed by March.
She added that the unit being based in Wansbeck had helped provide stronger support and cover for staff as well as easier access for patients to other hospital services, such as diagnostic tests.
Mrs Ray also explained that there are currently seven vacancies – half of the team – at the Whalton Unit, despite six rounds of recruitment; one of the reasons for this is that many staff would prefer working as part of a larger site rather than being isolated, she said.
However, Derry Nugent, project coordinator for Healthwatch Northumberland, pointed out that ‘patient experience is so important too’.
If there were to be any permanent changes to the Whalton Unit’s location, this would be subject to public consultation and scrutiny by the health and wellbeing committee.
This article originally appeared on ChronicleLive
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