New school nursing teams would be based in Northumberland, not Yorkshire, bosses promise

The leading contender to take responsibility for children’s health in Northumberland has promised its teams will be based in the North East – not almost 100 miles away in Yorkshire.

Friday, 13th August 2021, 2:08 pm
Updated Friday, 13th August 2021, 2:41 pm
The headquarters of Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) is at Harrogate District Hospital, although its children's services are run by its community and children’s directorate. Picture Gerard Binks

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) has been put forward by bosses as the best option to be handed responsibility for the county’s children and young people aged up to 19.

But the organisation, which already runs school nursing and health visiting in other parts of the region, has insisted it will begin expanding operations north, should it be handed the contract.

“HDFT’s headquarters are in Harrogate District Hospital, but the 0-19 services are run out of our community and children’s directorate,” said Suzanne Lamb, the trust’s lead nurse for public health and quality. “I’m the head of nursing and head of safeguarding, I’m from the North East, I’m based in the North East and I live in the North East.

“People often hear ‘Harrogate’ and think it is going to be an area where everything happens from Harrogate. That isn’t the case, my office is in County Hall, in Durham, we have a number of bases, [including in] Sunderland and in Gateshead and we will be looking to do further bases in Northumberland, if this comes to pass.”

HDFT is seeking to replace Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHCFT) as the provider of children’s health services in the county, following NHCFT’s decision to walk away from a 10-year-old existing partnership with Northumberland County Council (NCC).

There are currently 95 ‘whole time equivalent’ health visitors and support staff working in Northumberland, as well as 30 posts in the school nursing service.

If the new deal is agreed with HDFT, which already runs similar programmes in County Durham, Darlington, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Darlington, Gateshead and Sunderland, it would take over services from October, when the current deal with NHCFT ends.

County council bosses, who are currently running a public consultation on the changes, have said they are not currently considering any other potential partners to take over the ‘0-19 services’ and have also rejected the possibility of bringing it in-house.

NCC chief executive Daljit Lally said: “We haven’t taken the decision to look for alternative partners. In some areas, [such as] the other part of NHCFT’s area, North Tyneside, those very services returned to the council there a couple of years ago.

“We’ve taken a different approach because we see different benefits for us in working with a new trust, one that can demonstrate a track record of delivering these services and delivering innovation.”

The consultation on the changes runs until August 15. Further details can be found at https://haveyoursay.northumberland.gov.uk/public-health/section-75-consultation/