Change of plan for Berwick’s new hospital

The new hospital will be built on the existing site at Berwick Infirmary.
The new hospital will be built on the existing site at Berwick Infirmary.

Berwick’s new hospital will now be located on the existing town centre site after health chiefs decided yesterday to abandon their plan to build on land at Berwick Academy.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust says the decision has been made after “listening closely to the views of local people.” Health officials have also been frustrated by delays to their initial plan to build at Berwick Academy.

The trust’s original proposal to locate the hospital on playing fields at the school was announced in May 2012. Since then, it has been waiting for approval from the education secretary. Eighteen months on, health trust bosses have decided they cannot wait any longer. They hope their revised plan, decided upon at a meeting of the trust’s board yesterday, can “move forward with pace.”

Northumbria Healthcare Trust says it is acting on feedback from the local community in Berwick following a series of engagement events held earlier this year.

The trust says residents also expressed concern over the delay, and were firmly of the opinion that the new hospital should be built in the heart of Berwick town centre, making access easier for patients and visitors alike.

Steven Bannister, director of estates and facilities at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, explained: “We have always been committed to building a new hospital in Berwick and announcing these fresh plans represents a significant step forward for local people who have waited long enough for progress to be made.

“Over the past year, we have engaged with the local community and listened intently to what people have been telling us. The overwhelming feeling from Berwick residents has been one of frustration at the delays encountered so far, but also that they would prefer a new hospital to be built in the town centre because it would be easier to get to. The decision shows we have listened and revised our plans accordingly.

“We will now look in detail, with our partners, at how we can build a new hospital on the existing site while continuing to provide services to patients. We recognise that the location of the new hospital in Berwick has been the subject of much debate but our absolute priority now is to progress our new plans as swiftly as possible.”

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith welcomed the news.

He said: “There has always been strong support locally for the hospital to stay in the centre of town where it is so much more convenient and many people will welcome the decision to redevelop the existing site.

“Although the Berwick Academy was willing to release land and I have been working with education minister David Laws to achieve the necessary approvals, now the hospital trust has made this decision we can get on with the rebuild quickly.”