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Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

A better hospital for Berwick: Goodbye NHS :-(

I’ve had my eyes opened. The NHS is no longer the NHS. As recently as two days ago, I continued to believe that, at its core, the NHS we knew and loved 20, 30, 40 years ago still existed. I was deluded.

The NHS has been magicked away. Lost beneath a debris of neglect and greed. Many services have been consigned to the sharp box of the business sector – from GP practices, to clinics such as audiology. Haemorrhages in other services (cancer support, end-of-life care) are being staunched by voluntary organisations, often funded partly by the NHS but mainly through charitable giving. While many of us believed that Healthcare Trusts, Council Leaders and Commissioning Clinical Groups (CCG) had our best interests at heart they were stitching us up.

In 1948 Nye Bevan formed the NHS. Free care for all, from the cradle to the grave. He didn’t say that 50 years later it would end at Newcastle and begin again in Edinburgh!!!! Susan Allen, from A Better Hospital for Berwick Facebook page

Yesterday, along with a large crowd of other Berwick residents, I went to a drop-in session laid on by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council (NCC). On the Council’s website this was billed as an opportunity to be listened to and to ask questions about the proposed new health and leisure facility planned for Berwick.

The local campaign group A Better Hospital for Berwick was formed in response to plans by the three groups above to build a co-located health and leisure facility in Berwick on the site of the current leisure centre. As covered in previous posts, the campaign group’s gripe is not with the investment into healthcare (or leisure), it is with the shrinkage of clinical provision and lack of planning and space for expansion.

Whilst Northumbria Healthcare, the NCC and the CCG claim that the facility will be world class, A Better Hospital for Berwick maintains that, whatever class it is, it will not be fit-for-purpose. That is, it will not return services that, over the years, have been removed from the current Berwick Infirmary – such as adequate Maternity provision and Endoscope facilities. In these circumstances, the group says that the authorities’ promise that ‘all the current services’ will remain is not good enough.

The campaign group say that this evasive phrase, ‘all current services’, will not stop the hours and hours that people spend on the A1 accessing essential hospital facilities; it will not address the loss of the vital Golden Hour to those in acute need of emergency care post stroke/heart attack; it will not address the grim reality of having to travel a round trip of  70 to 160 miles (Hexham hospital) for grim and intrusive procedures or simple pre-meds; it will not address the huge sums of money the NHS spends on taxis and transport of patients; it will not address the fact that 35 miles to the south of Berwick, Alnwick Infirmary has many of the facilities once available in Berwick, but not featured in current plans.

It is worth noting that Alnwick is about 28 miles from the nearest major trauma centre – the Cramlington Hospital – Berwick is 60 miles from the same facility. Whilst no one is advocating that it should be an either/or situation between Berwick and Alnwick, it does seem extraordinary that Berwick should be deprived of services (available in Alnwick) that would save time, money and lives.

The campaign group A Better Hospital for Berwick continues to attract local people from all walks of life and all ages. This fact, coupled with media coverage, has generated various responses from the NCC, the CCG and Northumbria Healthcare Trust. In the last week, they have released a video which they claim answers people’s questions, they have issued a four-page wrap-around PR initiative in the local paper, The Berwick Advertiser,  and organised yesterday’s drop in event.

The drop-in was held at a time when most people are at work (10am-1pm) and publicised only by social media and the local paper. The facilities and the staffing were woefully inadequate. The room was cramped and stuffy, the NCC and NHS representatives were not able to answer many questions. The aim of the meeting as far as the NCC and NHS were concerned was made clear in the form we were handed after we had queued to get in:


If you ask loaded questions you will always get an answer you can line up with the decision you’ve already made.

Stephen Holmes of NHS Northumbria Healthcare Community Services (pictured centre below) was asked about clinical provision in the new facility. He replied that ‘the decision on what clinical services will be provided [in the new health/leisure facility] has been taken and is irreversible’. Mr Holmes went on to say that the decision ‘wasn’t consulted on because the NHS is not required to consult.’


I wish I could write a pause for you to retrieve your jaws off the ground. THE NHS IS NOT REQUIRED TO CONSULT. This service that we pay for. That we support. That we cherish. This service has stopped caring about people. It has become a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces are moved around with little or no thought given to the impact the arrangement of those pieces will have on people’s lives. Doubly distressing and terrifying is that our elected representatives are complicit in this.

I wrote to Peter Jackson Leader of NCC expressing my concerns about the plans and asking very specific questions. After prompting him, I received a response. He forwarded to me an open letter he had sent to our local councillors which included this:

There have been ongoing issues about access to health services in Berwick since the opening of the new A&E in Cramlington. The decision at that time of siting that facility so far south was made with the assent of the then ruling Liberal Democrat administration at the County Council which did include Berwick Councillors in positions of responsibility for these matters.

No! NO. This is not good enough, Mr Jackson. The facilities at Alnwick Infirmary have not been reduced since Cramlington – we in Berwick are often sent there for pre-meds and endoscopes.

There were plans in place as recently as 2016 (based on the 2013/4 paper) to rebuild Berwick Infirmary and include all the lost clinical facilities, including endoscopies. It is under your watch that this co-located facility, with its emphasis on obesity and so-called lifestyle health issues, has been concocted.

Berwick needs better than this. Berwick needs a better hospital.

And that’s exactly what all those people crammed into that too-small, sweaty space at Swan Leisure Centre will keep saying until we are heard. This isn’t paperwork to be pushed around someone’s desk until they like the way it sits. This is people’s lives and people’s wellbeing.



(c) Jackie Kaines

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11 thoughts on “A better hospital for Berwick: Goodbye NHS :-(

  1. Ann Smith on said:

    Your report is absolutely spot on! You couldn’t have out but any better Jackie. Exactly what the majority think.
    It is so unnerving living here nowadays. To be so far from help is frankly criminal.
    Jim was at the meeting yesterday too and came to the same conclusion as you.

    The point Mr. Jackson made about the Lib Dems ruling group and blaming them for the site of new A&E hospital, is utter tosh! They were a minority group and couldn’t possibly have voted for Cramlington on their own. There were members of other groups including his, on the deciding committee.
    He is so hypocritical. He says on the one hand that NCC have no say in the matter regarding the new Berwick Hospital. Of course they do! They have to give planning consent and also, if they don’t want integrated side by side hospital and leisure facility then the ball is in their court. Just don’t do it Mr. Jackson and refuse to go in with them. Such hidden agenders left right and centre.
    Well done yet again Jackie

  2. Caroline Morrell on said:

    Your report is spot on and the people of Berwick will continue to fight to be listened to until NCC, CCG and the NHS are beaten down.

    Not long ago I read that with the houses being built in Berwick and the surrounding area the GP’s we currently have will not be able to cope. Combined with the fact Berwick’s population trebles over the summer due to Berwick and Haggerston caravan parks Berwick needs its own hospital that can deal with emergencies before being transferred to another hospital.

    We were sold down the river with the Cramlington hospital which was only supposed to deal with BLUE LIGHT EMERGENCIES. We will not let it happen again. All we want is what was promised and that was a new hospital in 2012. Why are we no nearer to this in 2018!!!!

  3. Bos Menzies on said:

    Pithy and to the point, Jackie. Unfortunately NHS etc seem to have been ready to fight a war of attrition – just hoping that a generation of idealists in the Berwick area will fade away so they can proceed with their glittering leisure, health, welbeing and p;atitudinous provision to tick some of their boxes.
    … and, of course, it is the worst part of the A1 in the whole of England that folk in this area must travel along in ‘the golden hour’. Reassurances are needed about the provision of adequate (air) ambulance provision.
    The point about the swelling of the size of the population in summer time is also spot on.
    In winter it’s hard enough to reach Berwick.

  4. Janet Heywood on said:

    I totally agree with you, Jackie. The proposed plans continue to make Berwick a woefully inadequate medical facility with lives being potentially endangered as a result.

  5. Jen McLean on said:

    I think this article sums up exactly what people are feeling. We deserve and demand equality in our health care provisions. Northumbria Health trust CCG and Northumberland County Council are stitching is up (because they think we’re the easy target) in an ego trip and vanity project they hope will make them the ‘face’ of the Vanguards, Northumbria Health Care being one of them all deployed to privatise our NHS..
    Great piece Jackie, thank you and to quote the very end of Susan Allen’s Statement ..WE WILL NEVER SURRENDER!

  6. Kenneth Patterson on said:

    Totally agree with all you said. I still think a joint venture to benefit those just over the border would help everyone. They have nearly as far to go as those in Berwick. The golden hour we keep hearing about does not appear to be available to Berwick or those close to the border on the Scottish side. But everything you have said is true and it is time they started to listen and talk to appropriate people so we all benefit.

  7. Tracey Anderson on said:

    I think it’s a disgrace the way NCC is trying to hoodwink the people of berwick well seen they don’t live in the town. I am a disabled person who is frequently rushed to hospital in servere pain, I use to go to berwick infirmary to receive treatment and stabilise before being transferred to the boarders general untill politics took over and cramlington hospital was opened and the NHS wouldn’t pay SNHS for my treatment it was a lot easier to travel too (under a hour) even getting fought behind a tractor or slow traffic. My medical care was transfered to the Freeman as it’s a kidney disease ive got, I’ve since had to blue light to Cramlington earlier this year and it took about 1:30mins having to stop off at Alnwick to refuel with gas’n’air as I went through 2 bottles before alnwick which is a lot to take, getting to cramlington through A&E and to a ward they had my name completely wrong and because I was awake I noticed the mistake wouldn’t like to think about it if I wasn’t. so the first impressions of cramlington wasn’t a good one. That us why we need and want our hospital back to working order like it was, give us back our 3 wards. So the elderly can stay with their family’s and friends, kids don’t need to travel next day to have their broken bones put in a cast or stitches put in, please listen to the voices of our large town…..

  8. Dorothy Webster Beck on said:

    Excellent Jackie, all our points addressed. Well done and Thank You.

  9. Stella Clark on said:

    Has anyone asked Anne-Marie Trevelyan as Berwicks MP to help us, after all that’s what she was elected for?

  10. Pingback: Words in my window: two for the price of one! | Border Lines

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