View of Berwick town from the bridge

Berwick Hospital Proposals Engagement

As part of the consultation process, Healthwatch Northumberland was asked by NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group to hear from certain groups of people about the proposed sites and idea of a joint hospital and leisure centre in Berwick.

We spoke to 90 individuals through activity with a number of local voluntary groups and week long information stands set up in both Wooler and Berwick. People were shown maps of the proposed site locations and asked to choose a preferred location for the new hospital, and if they were in favour of a combined leisure centre and hospital.

Read the full report.


Silhouettes of people jumping on a beach at sunset

Have your say on health and care in Northumberland

Northumberland County Council and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are working together to improve the overall health and wellbeing of the county’s residents and reduce inequalities over the next ten years.

Health and care leaders from the Health and Wellbeing Board have drafted a new Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy for the county. This explains what priorities the board has set in order to tackle the county’s health needs.

People living and working across Northumberland are being asked to share their views on future health and care priorities by completing an online survey.  Feedback will help shape the final Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy which is due to be published later this year. There is also the opportunity to meet with staff from Northumberland CCG at four events to be held across the county this month:

  • Wednesday 15 August: 2.00pm – 4.30pm, Morpeth Town Hall, Morpeth NE61 1LZ
  • Thursday 16 August: 2.00pm – 4.30pm, Isabella Community Centre, Ogle Drive, Blyth NE24 5JF
  • Friday 17 August: 2.00pm – 4.30pm, Hexham Abbey, Hexham NE46 3NB
  • Monday 20 August: 2.00pm – 4.30pm, Northumberland Hall, Alnwick NE66 1TN

The online survey can be completed here until Friday 7 September.

More details can be found on the council’s website here.

If you would like to attend one of the events or for further information please email: or call 01670 335 185.

Man at GP reception

Patient choice of GP Practices

Since 5 January 2015, all GP practices in England have been free to register new patients who live outside their practice boundary area.

This means you can register with a GP practice somewhere that’s more convenient for you, such as a practice near your work or closer to your children’s schools. These arrangements are voluntary for GP practices. If the practice has no capacity at the time, or feels it is not clinically appropriate or practical for you to be registered so far away from home, they can still refuse registration. The practice should explain to you their reason for refusing your registration.

How to register with a GP practice further away

You may wish to join a GP near work or re-register with your old GP following a move. There are a few things to consider:

  • Research your options in the area you want to register with, so you choose a practice that is right for you.
  • Compare GP surgeries according to facilities, services or performance before you decide. Ask friends, relatives and others you trust for their thoughts and recommendations.
  • Contact the practice and ask if it is accepting registrations from out-of-area patients.
  • If the practice is accepting registrations, ask for a registration form.

The practice will decide, following a review of your completed registration form, whether to accept you as a regular patient or accept you without home visiting duties (if it is clinically appropriate and practical for you to be registered away from home).

Because of the greater distance to your home, the GP you register with is under no obligation to offer you a home visit. If you are not well enough to go to the practice yourself, then other arrangements will be made. NHS England (the body responsible for buying GP services) ensures that there is access to a service either near your home or at home (if needed). When you register with a practice further away from home, you will be given information about what you should do in those circumstances.

However, if you are too ill to go to the practice in person, or the practice is unable to help you over the phone, call NHS 111. The NHS 111 service can tell you about access to local services or, where necessary, arrange a home visit.

For more information please visit NHS Choices.

woman having a mammogram

Breast Cancer Screening

The Health Secretary announced today  that up to 270 women in England may have died because they did not receive invitations to a final routine breast cancer screening. Speaking in the Commons, he said 450,000 women aged 68-71 years had failed to get invitations since 2009. The story can be read in full here.

Healthwatch England and local Healthwatch across the country have received very few enquiries about breast screening; this could be because people haven’t been called for screening before, therefore aren’t aware they should be going and so isn’t something they raise concerns with us about.

We are keen to make sure that the NHS identifies those affected and moves swiftly to get people screened. We would urge anyone who wants to share concerns or experiences of screening, good and bad, to get in touch.

If you have any concerns or questions please call the helpline: 0800 169 2692

More information on breast screening can be found at NHS Choices.


Wansbeck General Hospital

Temporary overnight changes at Wansbeck Urgent Care Centre announced

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has today announced the temporary decision to suspend Wansbeck Urgent Care Centre between the hours of 10.00pm and 8.00am in response to winter pressures.

The trust says the measure – part of winter resilience planning across the Emergency Care Services – will release an additional 56 hours of nursing time for the emergency department per week. Some of the nursing team already rotate to The Northumbria as part of their on-going training and education so will be able to make a positive impact immediately. It says in light of relatively low numbers attending overnight, it’s working with its urgent care nursing staff to ensure their skills can be put to best use to meet demand across the trust.

“It’s not a decision we take lightly,” said Dr Jeremy Rushmer, Executive Medical Director at the trust “But the sheer number of people attending the emergency department, including many elderly and/or frail patients who are complex to assess and are in need of significant support to resolve their problems, means that we have to activate contingency plans in order to cope.

“As members of the public may be aware we broke records in terms of the number of people attending more than once last week and there are no signs of pressure letting up, once the cold snap is over. The additional staff will play a vital role in ensuring we continue to have the right skills, in the right place, at the right time; so we can continue to provide the very best care for those most in need.”

While this temporary measure is in effect any members of the public who are not in immediate need of critical of life-saving care should contact NHS 111 to seek advice 24 hours a day. Northern Doctors Urgent Care – contactable via 111 – will continue to use the centre as one of their (3) bases should an urgent GP appointment be needed overnight.


Wansbeck General Hospital

24 hour urgent care to return to Northumberland

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust announced today that the urgent care centres at Wansbeck and Hexham General Hospitals would re-open overnight from 30 October. This will bring to an end the temporary overnight closures (between 12.00am and 8.00am) which have been in place since September last year. North Tyneside General Hospital will continue to close at midnight.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Like the rest of the NHS, we are once again preparing for an extremely busy time this winter and fully endorse the NHS recommendation to call 111 before visiting any of our urgent care centres or our emergency department.

Calling 111, which is free and available 24/7, is the best way to get the treatment you need in the quickest way and will also include access to urgent GP appointments this winter.

“It is vital that The Northumbria hospital in Cramlington is kept free for serious emergencies only and we have worked hard to re-open our urgent care centres overnight for conditions which are not life-threatening but need an urgent response. We hope this news will be welcomed by patients.”

Healthwatch Northumberland was asked to engage with the public about their views on the temporary night time closures and what the public understood about urgent care centres and where to access treatment. The results were considered as part of the decision making process.


New Ambulance Standards Announced

NHS England announced the introduction of new system of national ambulance response standards which aims to ensure the most appropriate response is sent to a patient rather than the fastest one.

Following the world’s largest clinical ambulance trial undertaken by Sheffield University, this redesign of the ambulance service standards focuses on ensuring patients get the right care in the appropriate time frame rather than simply ‘stopping the clock’. For the first time response targets will apply to every single patient, not just those in immediate need.

Call handlers will change the way they assess cases and will have slightly more time to decide the most appropriate clinical response. As a result cardiac arrest patients can be identified quicker than ever before, with evidence showing this could save up to 250 lives every year.

In future there will be four categories of call:

  • Category one is for calls about people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. These will be responded to in an average time of seven minutes.
  • Category two is for emergency calls. These will be responded to in an average time of 18 minutes.
  • Category three is for urgent calls. In some instances you may be treated by ambulance staff in your own home. These types of calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 120 minutes.
  • Category four is for less urgent calls. In some instances you may be given advice over the telephone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. These less urgent calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 180 minutes.

The new targets will aim to remove long waits for millions of patients, including reducing lengthy waits for the frail and elderly. For example, sometimes more than one vehicle is sent to a patient to meet response targets, or a rapid response vehicle would be sent, which would ‘stop the clock’ but may not have been able to transport the patient to hospital. These new standards will be rolled out over the coming months.

More information can be found at the NHS England and North East Ambulance Service websites.





Hexham General Hospital

Overnight urgent care closures to continue

Temporary measures to close the urgent care centres overnight at Hexham, Wansbeck and North Tyneside hospitals are set to continue for at least another three months.

The measures, which have seen the centres closed between midnight and 8.00am since December last year, are deemed necessary by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust so that the skills of nursing staff are used where they are most needed overnight. Night time emergencies have been diverted to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Hospital in Cramlington.

In an announcement on 22nd June, the trust stated that since the temporary measure was implemented there has been no detrimental impact on patient care and no significant change in the number of people accessing services overnight at the emergency care hospital.

The trust has stressed that the move is a temporary decision and says it will continue to work with NHS Northumberland and North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Groups on future arrangements.

For more information on emergency and urgent care services please see our Find Services page or visit Northumbria NHS Healthcare Foundation Trust website.

Access to GP Appointments – May 2016

Between December 2015 and February 2016 Healthwatch Northumberland worked on a countywide project to better understand patients’ experiences of accessing GP appointments and the systems used by GP practices. Both patients and GP practices were contacted for their feedback and other sources information were also examined.


Overview of the Access to GP Appointments Project

This overview must be considered alongside the full report which presents the findings question by question and includes quote examples of patients’ experiences as well as other supporting sources of data.

Background, Aims and Method

Throughout 2015, feedback from the public highlighted access to GP appointments as a key issue in Northumberland, in terms of the time patients had to wait between requesting an appointment and seeing their GP, as well as different ways access to GP appointments is offered. There had also been some feedback about how long patients wait beyond their appointment time until they are seen by their GP. However, this does sit alongside much positive feedback from patients about their GP services.

Healthwatch Northumberland’s Access to Healthcare Task Group recommended that this issue was explored in more detail to help us understand the scope and scale of the problem for patients as well as look at what patients say works well for them with regards to the delivery of GP services so that it can be usefully shared.

The aim of the project was therefore to find out more about patients’ experience of accessing GP appointments in Northumberland, from both a patient and practice perspective. Two questionnaires were designed (one for patients and one for GP practices) which aimed to provide a snapshot of the current situation in Northumberland. Additional sources of data were also reviewed and offer additional support for the conclusions and recommendations drawn in this report.

The full report can be found here:  Access to GP Appointments – Detailed findings








NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Annual Public Meeting

Members of the public are invited to attend the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Annual Public Meeting. The Annual Public Meeting will be held on Wednesday 27 June 2018 at 10.00am in Committee Room 1, County Hall, Morpeth.

This is an opportunity for local people to find out how the CCG has performed in the past year and how it plans to meet the needs of local communities in the future.

At the meeting the CCG will reflect on progress and achievements made in 2017/18 and will present its annual report and accounts. There will also be an opportunity for members of the public to ask the CCG’s Governing Body questions.

For more information on the Annual Public Meeting and to download a copy of the annual report and accounts (from 15 June 2018), please visit

If you would like to attend or to submit any questions, please contact Melody Price on 01670 335185 or email

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group Patient Forum

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is inviting local people to its county-wide Patient Forum to share their experiences of the NHS and help influence the design of future local health services.

The CCG for Northumberland has always valued patient feedback and has used it to improve local health services. The meeting will provide an excellent opportunity for the CCG to share important information and to discuss issues currently impacting the health of the people of Northumberland.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday 31 October at Northumberland Hall, Market Place, Alnwick, NE66 1TN between 2pm and 5pm.

If you would like to attend or for further information please email: or call 01670 335 185.