Leaders in the NHS and council partners have welcomed the Government’s commitment to invest in the future of community services at Shotley Bridge Community Hospital.
NHS County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), along with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Property Services, Durham County Council and other key partners have been working for some time on plans to improve health services in North West Durham.
In that time, the CCG has continued to engage with community groups, including the Shotley Bridge Local Reference Group, which is chaired by Cllr Lucy Hovvels and includes other local member representation.
Last week, the CCG and partners attended the Adults Wellbeing and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to provide an update after progress on the plans were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health partners have reaffirmed their commitment to progress work, which includes engaging with local people on the delivery of new models of care and the potential of a new build facility in the area.
Dr Jonathan Smith, clinical chair of NHS County Durham CCG said: “For some time we have been working hard to redevelop community services at Shotley Bridge and are excited that those plans are starting to gather momentum.
“At this stage, no details have been agreed about new facilities or their location, though we have carried out preliminary work to identify potential sites in the area as part of our commissioning planning processes.
“It is important that the CCG follows due process and as such we will continue to engage with local people, partners and stakeholders including the Adults Wellbeing and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee as work progresses.
“We are planning to announce details of the next stage of our engagement work soon, which we anticipate will lead to public consultation in the summer of 2021.
“This investment will support our commitment to developing a new integrated community healthcare facility in the area and we look forward to continuing our conversations with local people, our workforce and partners to shape and deliver the final plans.”
Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adult and health services and Chair of the local Health and Wellbeing Board , said: “It is really pleasing that the government are committing to the future of the community services at Shotley Bridge Community Hospital. However, it is important to make clear that no final decisions have been made about the new facilities that will be offered, or their location.
“Since conversations first began about how to improve health services in North West Durham, we have been in discussions with a dedicated patient reference group, the health and wellbeing board and the local community to provide regular updates on progress. These conversations will continue as the plans are shaped and there will be opportunities for residents to have their say on the future of the facility before any decisions are finalised.”
Jeremy Cundall, Executive Medical Director at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “While it is disappointing that we have not made as much progress as we had planned, we hope this is understandable as our workforce over the past few months focussed their efforts on frontline patient care, as well as supporting their teams, during the pandemic. In response to the pandemic, we made a number of changes to service to ensure patient safety and protect our workforce. We needed to reflect on these changes and identify any learning to understand the impact of the Pandemic on the shape of care and services in the future. We therefore felt the clinical model, which was developed pre-COVID, needed to be reviewed and further considered to take into account the changes which have taken place. This work is now underway and we have made some changes to the model of care so we would now like to carry out further engagement with our local communities.”