The imminent closure of the Rake Lane maternity unit is in sight.
The News Guardian story of December 11, 2013, and the follow up news recently can only signal the closure of the once busy unit when the Cramlington hospital is completed in 2015.
The fact that only four mothers per week now use the Rake Lane facility has come about due to the downgrading from consultant led to midwife led, and 90 per cent of expectant mothers are now forced to use the RVI in Newcastle as a result.
Oddly enough, the Cramlington hospital comes with a consultant led maternity unit, something that Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust (HFT) felt unable to do at the Rake Lane hospital.
The trust is now telling us all that A&E at Rake Lane will be downgraded to a ‘cuts and bruises’ or ‘walk-in’ unit, with all critical cases – ‘blue light emergencies’ – being diverted to faraway Cramlington as from 2015.
That is bad enough, but how many people realise that Northumbria HFT intend to divert ‘blue light emergencies’ to Cramlington from as far away as Berwick and the outer parts of rural Northumberland?
It is inconceivable that this will improve the outcome of seriously ill patients, and I believe that many people who would survive with more local immediate hospital medical care will have a higher risk of death as a result of what Northumbria HFT is implementing in 2015 with the ‘emergency care hospital’ at Cramlington.
I am not alone with my concerns, in the News Guardian (September 1, 2011) 62 senior medical figures from the RVI signed a letter with their concerns regarding the then proposed ‘emergency care hospital’ at Cramlington, pointing out that it was duplicating what the RVI already provides in emergency care.
When the new arrangement comes into being next year I shall regard the RVI in Newcastle as the nearest fully staffed A& E for the coast, and plan accordingly.
It is not safe, in my view, to rely upon Northumbria HFT for critical emergencies after 2015.
It is a lot quicker to drive to the RVI than faraway Cramlington. It could save a life.