PATIENTS and staff will be moved out of a 19th Century hospital this week to allow progress on ushering in a new era for health care in a Northumberland market town.
The remaining occupants of Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital are being decanted and moved 16 miles along the A69 to Hexham General Hospital, to allow building work to start on a new £5.5m integrated health and social care scheme.
A 10-year campaign for improved health care facilities in Haltwhistle ended in success a month ago when county councillors granted planning permission for the new complex, which will comprise a 15-bed hospital ward and 12 extra care flats for elderly and disabled people. The War Memorial Hospital is to be demolished and the new facility built on the Westgate site in a joint project involving the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the county council.
Staff and patients will move out of the existing hospital tomorrow and its minor injuries unit will close at 5pm today.
They will relocate to a ward at Hexham General, with physiotherapy and occupational therapy facilities based elsewhere in the hospital.
Haltwhistle staff will continue to provide these services until the new facility is built and open – expected to be in about a year’s time.
The new building will provide a more modern, 15-bed hospital on the first floor and also 12 ground-floor extra-care flats, which will help replace social care lost when the town’s Greenholme residential home closed in 2009.
Preparatory work will take place on site over the summer with construction expected to start in the autumn.
Yesterday, Northumbria Healthcare said the relocation of staff and patients will not cause any disruption to services at Hexham General.
Brian Griggs, director of capital planning and development, said: “Transferring patients and staff from Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital is the next step in developing the integrated health and social care scheme in Haltwhistle.
“The hospital has served the Haltwhistle community extremely well over the years. It is an end of an era, however, we look forward to the new build and the improvements to health and social care services it will bring.”
County councillor Alan Sharp, who lives in Haltwhistle, said: “People accept there will be some inconvenience for patients, staff and their families while the services are provided in Hexham General but at the end of the day this integrated facility is the way forward, and everyone in Haltwhistle is united in welcoming the investment it brings.
“This is clearly the best way forward: having a 15-bed hospital with all mod cons and 12 flats below it for elderly people who want to stay in their own homes, but who will also be very close to receive medical attention if they need it.
“There won’t be very many staff and patients to move to Hexham because they have recently been sending some patients to Hexham General who would normally have gone to Haltwhistle.”
The new hospital will provide rehabilitation beds, a minor injuries unit, treatment rooms and physiotherapy and occupational therapy facilities.
The development will also incorporate a quiet room, kitchen and dining facilities, an office suite and daytime activity areas for the elderly.
The project is part of Northumbria Healthcare’s £200m investment to improve health and social care.