young man and caption: do you feel alone?

NHS Trust launches Winter Wellness Campaign

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, (NTW), which provides mental health and disability services and support across the North East, has a launched a winter wellness campaign to address loneliness and distress this Christmas.

The trust is aiming to reach young men who might not otherwise be aware of where they can go for help, and wants to spread the word to everyone that no matter how negative a situation may seem, help is at hand. The trust is sending information leaflets and posters to locations across the North East, including GP surgeries, libraries, universities, job centres and sports clubs.

In the UK men remain three times more likely to take their own lives than women, and in 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The North East is the region with the highest suicide rate in the UK.

Karen O’Rourke, NTW’s Patient Information Manager said: “Christmas and New Year can be one of the most fun times of year but for many this can also be a lonely, stressful or worrying time. We want to send the message that people don’t have to feel like this, and we hope that our publicity campaign will make it easier for people to seek out the help and support which is available.”

Speaking to someone about how you feel can help. Psychological Wellbeing Services are for adults finding it difficult to cope, feel low, anxious, stressed, worried or are not sleeping. You can call direct in Northumberland on: 0300 3030 700.

If you need urgent help with your mental health or learning disability you can get in touch with the Initial Response service. This is open for anyone to call, 24 hours a day: 0303 123 1146.

If you or another person have been harmed or are at immediate risk you may require an emergency response – call 999.

The Samaritans are there to listen 24 hours a day on: 116 123.

NTW also has a selection of self-help guides that are available online in a range of formats, including British Sign Language. The guides are available at, or can be requested in a printed format by calling the Patient Information Centre on 0191 246 7288 or emailing

For more information on mental health support visit our mental health page.

Annual Report Front Cover

Healthwatch England submits new report to Parliament

In his first annual report to Parliament as Chair of Healthwatch, Sir Robert Francis looks beyond health and social care performance statistics to explore how people are experiencing care day-to-day across England.

Drawing on evidence from 406,567 people, over the last year Healthwatch has looked at what people are saying about GPs and community services, hospitals, social care services and mental health support, as well as issues that are common to all four areas of care (see below).

Over the course of the year, our network shared 2,053 reports with local services and decision makers about the improvements people would like to see.

The collective findings of these stories and reports show a real mix of views, with people continuing to receive outstanding care, much of which people say is down to the dedication shown by the extraordinary staff who keep things running.

However, it is also becoming clear that others struggle to access the support they need, with services not getting the basics of care right. Examples Healthwatch has worked on over the last year include care home residents not being able to see an NHS dentist and hospitals not providing the right information to help prevent patients having to return unnecessarily.

Issues like these require the NHS and social care system to be looked at as a whole rather than focusing on the headline targets for individual parts of the service.

Yet as it stands, services are not always able to spot the gaps between them and the impact this is having on the people they care for.

With the NHS Long Term Plan imminent, and the government’s plans for social care due in the New Year, listening effectively to people needs to become “part of the DNA” of health and care in England. From the beginning of the planning process to the provision of services to individual patients, insight from people need to be used to shape decisions and better track performance.

Healthwatch is doing its part. Since 2014 we have created the health and social care sector’s single biggest source of user insight, gathering more than 1.4 million experiences and views. We have also set a clear goal to step this up further, by reaching a million people a year by 2023.

Encouragingly, those working in health and social care are also using our insight more than ever before, drawing on our evidence and calling on our expertise to engage with communities up and down the country.

The government’s commitment to invest billions more in the NHS provides a rare opportunity to invest for the long-term in a building a culture where staff at all levels work in equal partnership with communities to shape the way services run.

Chair of Healthwatch England, Sir Robert Francis, says,

“The government’s investment of extra billions in our health service gives us a great opportunity to think about how that money should be spent, and how we can track the impact of any changes to ensure they deliver the help people want and need.

“To do this, we want to see people’s experiences of care become part of the very DNA of the decision-making processes throughout the NHS and social care sector.

“I have seen first-hand how a purely target driven culture within the NHS can actually be bad for people’s health, both patients and staff. To focus exclusively on performance measures can leave services with a false belief they are succeeding without any real idea whether people’s care and support needs are being met or where things might need to change.

“Listening to people and learning from their stories is the best way to get the balance right, and to ensure services have the evidence they need to shape care around the real-life needs of those they serve.

“The outstanding efforts of our local Healthwatch teams, supported by more than 5,000 volunteers, have created an evidence base of people’s experiences that is simply unparalleled. What’s more, we can see this insight being used to shape some of the biggest debates in health and care.

“For me, this is just the beginning. Over the next five years, we are looking to create a movement that puts people at the very heart of health and social care. To do this we need people to keep coming forward, keep sharing and help services hear what really matters to them.”

Four common themes

From the hundreds of thousands of stories gathered by Healthwatch in the last year, we have identified four themes which people commonly experience across all services.

  1. Better information to make the right choices
    With the right information, the public is not only empowered to make better decisions about their health and care, but know where to go for help when they need it. However, this information isn’t always available, and when it is, it can be too technical, confusing or difficult to find.
  2. Easier access to support
    Quicker and easier access to health and care services is essential. It can take a long time for people to get the support they need. Many experience delays at every step – from getting an initial appointment, in waiting rooms, and to see a specialist for further treatment. Repeated cancellations also indicate that the NHS doesn’t value people’s time. Technology used correctly offers the potential to alleviate these barriers and provides easier access to services, and to earlier diagnosis.
  3. Improved conversations
    We know people want to be involved in decisions about their treatment and care. Good communication between professionals and the public helps people to be more informed, understand their choices, and manage their expectations. This is particularly important for people with disabilities or people who don’t speak English as a first language.
  4. Well-coordinated services
    Navigating health and social care can be complicated. People want a seamless experience across different services. When services work well together, it not only makes things easier for people but also reduces the risk of serious issues being missed.

Read the full What Matters Most Report 

Download an Easy Read What Matters Most Report

The Whalton Unit, Morpeth

Whalton Unit to relocate to Wansbeck General Hospital

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has made the following announcement:
‘In order to ensure that staffing is as resilient as possible for winter, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has announced that the Whalton Unit in Morpeth is to temporarily transfer to Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington.
The inpatient ward, which delivers specialist rehabilitation for frail older patients, will move to its new, interim, home in Ward 8 at Wansbeck hospital from Wednesday 19 December.The relocation – which will be reviewed next summer – is to ensure that there is adequate staffing to cope with the expected increase in demand over the winter months.In line with care of the elderly wards across the country, the Whalton Unit has faced significant recruitment issues for both nurses and doctors and the subsequent use of locum doctor and bank and agency nurse cover has made continuity of care challenging.Being based within Wansbeck General Hospital will enable more cross-cover and support across teams; making the workforce more resilient and flexible.

It will also make it easier for inpatients to access other hospital services such as diagnostic tests which currently involve them being transported; something which can be difficult for frail older patients.

Usage figures since April 2017 shows that only around half of patients staying at the Whalton Unit are from the Morpeth area. Almost 30 per cent live in areas which are equidistant to Wansbeck hospital with nearly one in five living closer to the new location.

The trust recognises that travel may be more difficult for some families and has arranged a transport solution for those disadvantaged by the new location. Anyone affected after the move is urged to discuss this with the ward team on 01670 529108.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We would like to reassure the local community that this much-valued service provided from the Whalton Unit will be transferred to Wansbeck General Hospital in full and we remain committed to providing the highest standards of care to our patients in the new, temporary, location.

“The multi-disciplinary team which are the cornerstone of this service and has vital links to follow-up care in the community will re-locate to ensure that patients requiring further rehabilitation in hospital are able to receive this without interruption.

“Winter is an extremely busy time for the NHS with increased numbers of frail older patients requiring admission and subsequent rehabilitation. For these reasons we must ensure that we have appropriate staffing in place where demand will be highest. Being able to draw on the wider staffing pool already in place at Wansbeck will aid our efforts to do this.

“We fully appreciate that people from the Morpeth area may find it difficult to travel to Wansbeck hospital to visit loved ones and we’d urge anyone with any issues to contact us on 01670 529108.”

Outpatient, diagnostic and community services provided at Morpeth NHS Centre are unaffected by the move.’

Rothbury Community Hospital Task and Finish Group

Rothbury Hospital – Task and Finish Group

A new group will examine proposals put forward by the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) regarding the future of Rothbury Community Hospital.

The services at the hospital are commissioned by the CCG and in October 2017 the council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) met to consider the proposed closure of the 12 bed inpatient ward at the hospital, with services being shaped around a new health and wellbeing centre on the site.The committee referred the final decision to the Secretary of State for Health. Last month he announced that while the inpatient ward should not be immediately re-opened, further action is required to agree and implement the proposed health and wellbeing centre.

The Minister asked for an update on progress by the end of January 2019.

The council has already pledged to work closely with the local community, Healthwatch Northumberland and the CCG to develop proposals for the hospital over the coming months. Councillor Jeff Watson, who also leads the Health and Wellbeing OSC, will chair the new review group. At the first scoping session it was agreed that the CCG and OSC would fully engage with the community as the health and wellbeing centre is developed, while there is also a joint assessment on the impact of travel, cost and inconvenience for families and carers of those affected by the planned closure.

Councillor Watson said: “As timescales are tight it is important we set up a small working group to ensure progress is made quickly. Although an update is required by the Secretary of State by the end of January we do recognise work will continue beyond then which the OSC will need to monitor and review.”

David Thompson, Chair of Healthwatch Northumberland, added: “We welcome the opportunity to continue our involvement in this crucially important issue for people in the Rothbury area, in our role as independent health and social care champion. We would encourage people to get in touch with us with their ideas and views.”

A meeting of the review group, which the public can attend, will be held in the council chamber at County Hall on 10 December at 9.30am.

Action on Hearing Loss logo

Morpeth Hearing Group Programme 2019

Morpeth Hearing Group meets informally each month. The group members share their day-to-day experiences as well as their knowledge of hearing loss as well as talks and discussions.

The meetings are held from 2.00pm to 4.00pm at Northumberland County Blind Association, Reiver House, Staithes Lane, Morpeth, NE61 1TD. Everyone is welcome to attend for a chat and a drink.  A £2 contribution towards the room hire is appreciated.


Programme 2019:

9 Jan: National Energy Action, Action for Warm Homes, by Josh Sawyer

13 Feb: Dementia Friends and services in Northumberland by Helen Williams, Alzheimers Society

12 Mar: Treasures. Bring something that means a lot to you.

10 Apr: 1957 – what do you remember?

8 May: Audiology update – to be confirmed

11 Jun: Famous deaf people


Action on Hearing Loss logo

Alnwick Hearing Group Programme 2019

Alnwick Hearing Group meets informally each month. The group members share their day-to-day experiences as well as their knowledge of hearing loss as well as talks and discussions.

The meetings are held the last Wednesday of the month from 2.00pm to 4.00pm at St Paul’s Court, Prudhoe St, Alnwick NE66 1XY. Everyone is welcome to attend for a chat and a drink.  A £2 contribution towards the room hire is appreciated.


Programme 2019:

30 Jan: National Energy Action

27 Feb: Dementia Friends and services in Northumberland by Helen Williams, Alzheimers Society

27 Mar: Treasures.  Bring something that means a lot to you

24 Apr: 1957 – what do you remember?

29 May: Audiology update – to be confirmed

26 Jun: Famous deaf people

For further information, please contact Andy Griffin on 01665 581244 or at


Group enjoying activities and refreshments

Magic Memories Dementia Group Cafe

This special cafe is for people with memory problems or dementia and their carers. Come along for a chat, to pick up information and to enjoy some social time with others in a similar situation to your own where you can share ideas and experiences.

No need to book, just drop in. Refreshments will be available.

The café will run fortnightly on Mondays on the dates shown below, from 1.00pm to 3.00pm in the Church Hall at Blyth Central Methodist Church, Beaconsfield Street.

Please note that the cafe is independent to any of the church groups or activities. For further information please contact Kath on: 07762 743579 or Joanne on: 07762 403292, or you can email:


Magic Memories Dementia Café Dates 2019. Open on Mondays

January 14th and 28th

February 11th and 25th

March 11th and 25th

April 8th and 29th

May 13th

June 3rd and 17th

July 1st, 15th and 29th

August 12th

September 9th, 23rd

October 7th and 21st

November 4th and 18th

December 2nd and 16th

Rothbury Village

Our response to the decision to close inpatient beds at Rothbury Hospital

Update November 2018: The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) has responded to the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group regarding the engagement and consultation process undertaken around the decision to close the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital and reshape the existing services around a health and wellbeing centre. The IRP concludes that “further action locally is required to agree and implement the proposed health and wellbeing centre at Rothbury Community Hospital”. It is likely that Healthwatch Northumberland will be involved in any further engagement. The full letter from the IRP can be read here.


A great deal of concern has been expressed by people within Northumberland about the decision taken on 27 September 2017 by the Joint Locality Executive Board to close the 12 in-patient beds at Rothbury Community Hospital.

Having considered the information circulated prior to the Joint Locality Executive Board and representatives having attended the meeting, board members of Healthwatch Northumberland saw justification in responding to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in a letter forwarded on 5 October 2017. This was followed one week late by a response from Janet Guy, Lay Chair of the CCG. Both letters can be found below for your information.

The County Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee discussed the in-patient bed closures on 17 October and decided to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health. His decision is awaited with interest. In the meantime, Healthwatch Northumberland will continue to act as an independent champion to ensure the interests of the wider community remain at the heart of all decisions made about health and social care throughout the county, by listening to the views of local people and engaging in meaningful dialogue with the CCG.

David Thompson, Healthwatch Northumberland Chair.

Letter to the CCG re. Rothbury Hospital

Response from the CCG re. Rothbury Hospital


Please note: Any response to news items by individuals or organisations are the views of those posting the response.  They do not reflect the view of, nor are they solicited by Healthwatch Northumberland unless this is explicitly stated in the news article.

Northumbria Hospital

Accident and Emergency at The Northumbria

This month we’re working with Healthwatch North Tyneside to find out more about why people go to the A & E department at The Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital. We will have an information stand in the waiting room at various times over the next few weeks and will be asking patients to answer a few questions about their visit.

Healthwatch staff and volunteers will be asking people about their experiences of the A & E department and why they are choosing to use this service. The information given to us will remain anonymous. We will share a summary of the responses we receive with the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and use the information to help understand what is working well and what can be done differently.

External view of Hexham General Hospital

Hexham Urgent Care Centre

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has announced that Hexham urgent care centre will be closed overnight, between 10pm and 8pm, as of today. People needing medical advice or care between these times should ring NHS 111 to be referred to the most appropriate service. If it is an emergency, people should contact 999.

The urgent care centre will continue to operate as normal – as a walk-in service – between 8am and 10pm.

The trust says:

In July, the trust suspended overnight provision due to staffing pressures among its highly-trained specialist nursing team which deliver the urgent care service. The service did reopen earlier this month however the trust has continued to face severe workforce challenges which now prevent the service from being operational overnight.

Marion Dickson, chief operating officer for surgery, clinical support and child health at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to reassure the public that over the last three weeks we have done everything we can to run a safe and consistent urgent care service at Hexham overnight.

“Time and time again our staff have gone above and beyond to help us do this, and overcome the severe staffing pressures we face, and we would like to thank them all for their efforts. Despite our best efforts, it has now come to the stage where we have exhausted all possibilities and must, reluctantly, make this difficult decision.

“We fully understand that the local community will be disappointed – even angry –however, we must not, and will not, compromise on patient safety. We pride ourselves in providing the highest standards of care to our patients and running a safe service overnight is, at present, not an option.

“Our priority must always be to run services where there is most demand from patients and we simply do not have the staff to operate a service overnight while keeping it going during the day to cater for the thousands of people who attend between 8am and 10pm.

“We would like to apologise to the public for any inconvenience and the recent inconsistency in our service and would urge people to make use of NHS 111 should they need urgent medical advice overnight.”

The trust is discussing the options for this service moving forward with NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group and will update the public as soon as it is in a position to do so.