SERVICE AXE: Richardson Hospital
SERVICE AXE: Richardson Hospital

TEESDALE’S MP is to host a public meeting about the closure of Richardson Hospital’s out-of-hours service.

Residents will be able to put their questions directly to health bosses from the clinical commissioning group (CCG), County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and the North East Ambulance Service.

The meeting, organised by Helen Goodman, will take place on Tuesday, September 17, at 6.30pm, in the Barnard Castle Methodist Church Hall.

This meeting comes after the CCG announced plans to centralise out-of-hours urgent care within a smaller number of “hubs” across the region, removing the provision from Barnard Castle and Stanhope. In Teesdale, the closest hub is now Bishop Auckland.

Ms Goodman has opposed these plans and raised concerns with the Durham County Council’s health scrutiny committee about the service loss.

The CCG has said that the service at Barnard Castle was underused, but residents have reported that they were not directed to the Richardson when trying to make an appointment through the NHS 111 service.

Ms Goodman said: “This meeting is an opportunity for residents to be heard by the CCG, the hospital trust and the North East Ambulance Service, who operate 111.

“They will be able to ask questions, share their experiences, and hold these organisations to account. We need our health services to be designed around local needs, not this constant centralisation that makes it hard for people to get the care they deserve.”

A spokeswoman from Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “It’s important that as commissioners of local healthcare services we use NHS resources wisely and protect the valuable skills of our healthcare professionals.

“The ‘hub’ at the Richardson Hospital provided

overflow GP practice appointments during the day, evening and weekends with an advanced nurse practitioner.

“The service was commissioned by the CCG and was not a hospital service. It was provided by the local GP federation in rooms within the hospital in agreement with NHS County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust but could also have been delivered in a local GP practice or other suitable venue.

“Since the launch of the service in April 2017 patients only used 22 per cent of available appointments which is not a good use of resources. Following a formal public consultation it was decided that we could implement a better service by keeping the ‘hub’ in Bishop Auckland and investing in providing outreach services for housebound patients, those most vulnerable, including home visiting and access for those in rural areas as well as promoting the use of patient transport facilities.

”We would also like to assure the public that the CCG in partnership with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and Durham County Council want to strengthen the role of community hospitals such as the Richardson Hospital in Barnard Castle and does not have any plans to close Richardson Hospital. There are over 20 specialist clinics run out of the hospital which are delivered by consultants and specialist nurses.

”These include, urology, dermatology, audiology, ophthalmology and speech and language therapy amongst others.”