Children's Occupational Therapy Sensory Processing Service

Children’s sensory processing service

A new website from the Children’s Occupational Therapy Sensory Processing Service has now been launched. The service is delivered by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and is based at Wansbeck General Hospital.

Northumberland Parent Carer Forum worked closely with the team at Northumbria  to help build the website, how it might look, what information would be useful and how that should be presented.

What is the Children’s Occupational Therapy Sensory Processing Service?

The overall aim of the service is to support parents, carers, education staff and other professional groups to understand how sensory processing can impact on daily life, providing information on how to modify activities and the environment to support participation in activities of daily life for children and young people with sensory processing challenges.

Who is the service for?

Children and young people who are experiencing day-to-day difficulties with processing sensory information can access Northumberland’s Sensory Processing website for support, strategies, and information. If additional support is required a referral can be made to the Occupational Therapy service where parents / carers will be offered an initial telephone consultation. Referrals to the service must be completed by an approved professional and meet the following criteria.

  • The child/young person is aged 0-18 years, or 19 years if still in full time education and living in Northumberland.
  • The child/young person is registered with a Northumberland GP.
  • Parent/carer consent has been obtained for the referral.
  • Sensory processing strategies have been trialled to help improve engagement in daily living activities but have not been fully successful and further support is required.
  • Sensory processing challenges continue to have a significant and ongoing impact on mental health and/or physical wellbeing in relation to participating in daily living activities.

Visit the Children’s Occupational Therapy Sensory Processing Service


NHS survey for deaf patients

If you are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust wants to understand more about your experiences of using hospital services in Northumberland and North Tyneside. Your feedback is really important and will help us to improve your hospital care. This survey should take no more than ten minutes to complete – your responses are confidential and no individuals will be identified in completing it.


Complete the Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing patients survey


Please note that the survey has not been designed for deaf people who use BSL; feedback is being gathered from BSL users through the BSL Health Navigator Project in association with Deaflink. If you are a BSL user and would like to give your feedback about our services or would like more information about the Navigator Project, visit:  or contact (or Phone: 0191 281 2314; SMS/Text only: 07897 329 359).

If you would like further information about this survey, please email: and mark for the attention of Faye Gates.


A new way for outpatients?

A new way for outpatients? Have your say


Survey deadline extended – there’s still time to share your views with us on outpatient services – both existing care and plans for future changes to some appointments.


Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside, is looking at how it might change outpatient appointments.

Potentially this might replace some or all routine follow up appointments that would normally have been planned and would allow you to contact your clinic if you have any concerns.
Northumbria Healthcare has asked us to find out your views about this and to understand what would be important to you to make follow up care better.

If you have regular outpatient appointments now, or have ideas how a previous appointment could have been improved, please tell us here.

As a thank you for your time you can be entered into a prize draw for £50 shopping voucher.

Have your say on outpatients appointments

This survey has now closed

new care facility Rothbury

Rothbury Community Hospital update

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has given an update on work which will enable a new model of care to be delivered from Rothbury Community Hospital:


The pioneering strategic health and social care partnership between ourselves and Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd, which is part of People First Care, will see a package of community care being available for the residents of Rothbury and surrounding villages. The work, which will take up to four months to complete and is being delivered and managed by Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd, will involve transforming the inpatient ward at the hospital into a homely residential care home with the provision of flexible NHS beds.

It is hoped that the community health and social care facility will be opened by November.

The flexible NHS bed provision will be available for patients who need longer-term recuperation and rehabilitation and end-of-life care. The facility will receive clinical support from a team of district nurses, GPs and nurse practitioners and will be provided alongside healthcare currently provided in the community and in peoples’ homes.

The clear admission criteria we have for both services should give confidence in the care that will be provided whether someone is in an NHS or resident care bed.

Stark lessons learnt from the last two years include that healthcare provision needs to be flexible if it is to be sustainable and that the focus should not be on beds, but on what is going to enable patients to get better and recover as quickly as possible and the best use of our staff and resources. It is clearly evidenced that medically fit people should not be in hospital beds.

It is fantastic that we are able to be part of a partnership which offers holistic care for people. We are also mindful that this is a new model of care so a detailed review of the NHS provision will be done at three and six-month intervals. They will include the number of admissions to health beds, reason for admission, length of stay, if patients are unable to access the health beds, including their reason for needing admission, and feedback from staff and patients. We can then make any changes that we need to.

This is the first time that Rothbury has had a residential care home within the village. Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd want to make the environment as homely as possible. The 12 rooms will all be en-suite and residents and NHS patients will enjoy home-cooked food which will be prepared on the site and have access to a day room. There will also be a laundry on site.

The same contractor that originally built Rothbury Community Hospital is undertaking the building work so they have extensive knowledge of the building and we have every confidence in their ability to ensure the facility is of excellent quality.

Other positives include there now being another local employer in Rothbury and supporting the local economy. It is hoped that most of staff recruited will be from the local community and full training will be provided. There will also be a day centre and Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd is also looking to provide home care subject to demand and recruitment. They will start advertising various posts from July.

We are committed to making this partnership work for local residents as we appreciate that people have had to wait for a very long time for a solution. We would like to thank residents and all stakeholders for their patience, feedback and support.


Tell us your experiences of using health and social care services in Rothbury and across Northumberland.

Rothbury home care

New scheme for NHS care in Rothbury

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is developing a new flexible care service for patients in Rothbury that will see community treatment, NHS beds and much needed residential care for people in the area.

The trust has created a new strategic partnership with a third-party care provider People First Care which will allow the NHS to deliver a flexible number of beds to meet the needs of patients in Rothbury, while continuing to provide extra support for people’s health and care needs in their own home.

As part of the scheme Northumbria will commit to taking NHS beds within this facility – with numbers moving up and down flexibly to meet patient needs – which aligns with initial work in other parts of Northumberland and North Tyneside.

Under the plans People First Care will operate a 12-15 bed unit for people needing respite care, rehabilitation services, longer-term recuperation or end of life care. This facility will be supported by a wider team of district nurses, GPs and nurse practitioners.

Northumbria Chief Executive Sir James Mackey said “This is a really exciting development and I’m pleased that we’re able to announce these plans after so much hard work. The last two years have been incredibly challenging for all health and care services but it’s very rewarding to see the end result.

“The trust has been working incredibly hard to develop our ambition for hospital care in Rothbury but like every organisation in the health and care sector our focus for the past two years has been on managing the covid19 pandemic. While much work has already been done this has disrupted some of our planning but also taught us valuable lessons on the flexibility we need to cope with future challenges.

“We believe this model not only delivers the right level of NHS care, but also adds much-needed additional residential care home beds for the community. We’re confident that this unique and innovative approach can be a real success in Rothbury and we are committed to making it work.

“We know that much more NHS care should be delivered to people in their own homes where they are most comfortable and better able to recover. In the covid-era we’re also aware of the benefits of reducing the risks of spreading infections and creating unnecessary contacts for vulnerable, older patients.

“Our priority at all times has been to offer the best care to everyone in the area and it’s increasingly apparent that a flexible approach to beds, staffing and patient care is the best solution.

“Our focus is not on the number of hospital beds but how best to deliver care effectively and safely in community settings. The Trust already has a very strong community team supporting people right across the county.”

Cllr Steven Bridgett, County Councillor for Rothbury says “We have been waiting for a sustainable health and care bed solution for Rothbury for some years and I am pleased that the model outlined to me today is progressing with a view that this will be opened in the Spring.

“I have been in regular contact with the Trust and feel that they have listened to the concerns of the residents of Rothbury & Coquetdale and developed a solution that not only deals with the need for flexible healthcare beds but also adds to this a wider care solution that has been missing from this community for some years. Our focus is now on delivering this.”

Katie Scott, Coordinator of the Save Rothbury Community Hospital Campaign Team, said “Since the closure of the ward, we have fought for an integrated facility with GP surgery, step-up, step-down, end-of-life, and respite beds. In April 2017 we produced our ‘Coquetdale Cares – the Community’s Vision’. We have worked tirelessly to keep the health needs of our community in the minds of the NHS. The proposal that we have seen today looks like it is our vision, but with ‘a cherry on the top’!

“The team are delighted that residential care is at last coming to our community. We welcome the proposal and hope that the new facilities will be available very soon. We would also like to thank the community for the continuing dialogue, which has enabled us to report regularly to the NHS on real suffering and real need. Our only regret is that so many people, including Maurice Cole, a key member of the Campaign Team, did not live to benefit from the proposed new facilities at Rothbury Community Hospital.”

It is hoped the new model will be up and running by spring/summer 2022 and Northumbria will work with Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group to finalise the proposal as soon as possible to ensure there is minimal delay in getting the service up and running.

Help develop NHS Northumbria website

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is redeveloping its website and would like to invite you to get involved and offer your feedback.

An ‘end user focus group’ is being held at 11.00am on 11 January via Teams, so you can dial in from the comfort of your own home.

The session will be led by the website developers and the discussion will be based around designs and navigation, to gain a better understanding of user experience and how information should be prioritised.

If you are interested in taking part please contact

Berwick Hospital

Next phase for new Berwick Hospital

The next phase of work to build the new state-of-the-art £30 million hospital in Berwick is to begin.

Work to demolish parts of the old infirmary, which is part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, will start week commencing Monday June 21 and take around four months to complete.

Buildings that formed parts of the old infirmary, including theatres, the day ward, the reception, outbuildings and the energy centre will be demolished in a methodical and carefully managed sequence to take into consideration the archaeological work that continues on site.

Sir James Mackey, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s CEO, said “It is fantastic that we are ready to begin the next phase of work to build our new hospital. This brings us one step closer to ensuring that those that live in Berwick and the surrounding areas will have access to higher quality healthcare in an environment that enables innovative and progressive care and also improves patient experience and wellbeing.

“I am extremely proud that we are finally building our new hospital in Berwick and of the significant positive impact it will have. This is not only in relation to being able to have a more integrated approach to care, but also in terms of staff recruitment and retention, improving staff experience, supporting the economy and further opportunities for collaboration and partnership working. I would like to thank everyone involved in the project for helping us to reach this very important milestone.”

Berwick Infirmary dates back nearly 150 years and the fabric of the buildings to be demolished may contain aspergillus, a mould that can affect those with underlying health conditions and a weakened immune system. This mould can cause an infection which affects the respiratory system.

Patient safety always has to be the top priority for the trust and to ensure patient safety and wellbeing it will be necessary to temporarily stop admitting patients to stay overnight at the infirmary while this demolition work is carried out.

Patients that would usually be admitted to Berwick Infirmary will be cared for at Alnwick Infirmary or in space the trust is hoping to secure at a local care home in Berwick (subject to CQC registration). Patients at the care home will be looked after by the Berwick Infirmary team. Where a patient is cared for will depend on their clinical need and the trust will provide transport if needed.

Oncology and some ambulatory care services will also need to temporarily relocate to Alnwick Infirmary for around four months. Patient transport will be provided if required.

All minor injury unit (MIU), maternity and other outpatient department services will remain at Berwick Infirmary and the MIU will remain open overnight.

Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and project lead, said “I am thrilled that we are even closer to building our new hospital which is going to benefit our patients, staff and the local community in so many ways. We appreciate that having to temporarily relocate some of the services is not ideal, but we have worked very hard to look at options that keep these services either in or as close to Berwick as possible.

“Over the coming days and weeks, we will work closely with staff affected and we will be as flexible as we can be and also support staff as much as we can during this temporary period. The plan is that the majority of staff will continue to do their roles in Berwick. Only a small number, who already work at both Alnwick and Berwick Infirmaries, will need to spend more time working at Alnwick.

“I have been involved with this project for many years, and as a local Berwick resident I know how important having this new hospital is to people. It is hoped that the archaeological work will be completed by the end of the year and that construction work will begin in spring next year. We will of course continue to keep all of our stakeholders updated on a regular basis.”

Once this phase of demolition work is complete, services that have been temporarily relocated will move back to the Infirmary – this will include reopening the inpatient ward.

To enable the ward to be reopened and for patients to continue receiving overnight hospital care in Berwick, measures will be put in place to protect patients from noise, vibration and dust as much as possible.

These will include moving patient beds to the opposite side of the ward from where construction work will take place and installing soundproofing and ventilation.

Marion Dickson continued “Our team has worked incredibly hard to ensure that we keep as many of the services as we can in Berwick, which is a positive step. To ensure we have the space we need, we will have to temporarily reduce the number of beds on the ward to 16 until our new hospital is built and hope to be able to continue to use the relocated beds at the local care home during this time – keeping this vital hospital service in Berwick.”

AGM draft minutes and Q&As

The draft minutes from our AGM in October, plus answers to many of the questions raised before and during the event can be found below.

Questions for Healthwatch Northumberland

Q:  My husband has multiple health conditions. Since March, paramedics have been called four times (via NHS 111/999 or GP). We have been told consistently that they would not take him to hospital, e.g. for a high temperature. Are paramedics instructed to routinely give this message, consequently deterring people from seeking help? We know from past experience when his breathing is normal for him, but cause for concern, and when he is deteriorating and likely to require intervention.

This whole experience leaves us feeling it is wrong to call for help. This is exacerbated by other consultations (GP and hospital) which feel ineffectual for a person with multiple comorbidities.

A: North East Ambulance Service said:

The staff who answer 111/999 calls are not routinely instructed to inform patients that they would not take him to hospital. Each individual is assessed in their own right and the context of their presenting symptoms. If an individual is identified as needing hospital access then we would recommended that. Where an individual can safely be transferred to hospital without ambulance intervention that will be recommended. This saves ambulances for those people where there is an absolute need to transport the patient with supported care on route.

During the period since March 2020 we have had different thresholds for answering calls depending on how severe COVID-19 has been. Things may change in times of high demand and depending on the changing government guidance as we learn more about the virus.

On some occasions we have advised people not to access hospital care, the outbreak of COVID19 meant hospitals may not be the same safe environment for people with weak immune systems as they were previously. In these cases, where care could safely and effectively be given at home that would be recommended.

Q: Why have mammograms for women over 71 been stopped with no indication of when they will start again. Newcastle Hospitals advised there is only a four month backlog.  I have booked a private appointment. Also have GP surgeries been told to stop advertising the service.

A: This question has been submitted to Newcastle Hospital Trust and we will publish the answer as soon as we have it.

Q: I have seen that Being Woman charity gives out devices to people to access digital services. Is this service only for black, Asian and minority ethnic people or can anyone in Northumberland also access their service to get digital devices. One of my acquaintances in Amble has one and she was guided to connect up to GP services.

A: Thank you for your feedback and query around Being Woman. If you are looking for support around digital skills or would like to have a device to access digital resources we recommend you get in touch with them directly, either through their website: contact them on 01670 857167.

Live questions:

Q: Where would I find more details about the Healthwatch Northumberland vacancy? Will there be a link available?

A: Derry answered. Yes we will make the link to our website available after the event or you can email to find out more.

Q: Do you have a view about the recent Look North feature about designated care home dementia spaces?

A: Derry answered. This is a policy decision and we don’t have a view in advance of the patient/carer experience but we are keen to find out more and hear from people about this if it is implemented.

Q: Are there any Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) plans to communicate the Primary Care Network plan to the wider community?

A: Derry answered. HWN is always keen on how issues, changes and developments are communicated to the wider service user group so we will put this to the CCG and publish the answer.


Questions for our guest speakers from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Alistair Blair and Judith Stonebridge, Public Health Consultant

Q: How accessible is digital in healthcare for the visually impaired, and have they been consulted and involved in the planning on digital healthcare? In addition, a lot of self-care promotion is on digital and this adds to health inequalities.

A: Judith answered. This is a really important question and definitely needs to be considered. The pandemic meant a rapid change overnight and there wasn’t much time for engagement, but we are doing that now and are keen to work with Northumberland County Blind Association. A significant amount of appointments are by telephone rather than computer so this may help and face-to-face appointments are still available if appropriate. We are keen to be as inclusive as possible, not just with appointments but with materials too.

Alistair added in regard to the self-care resources that digital resources are in addition to existing materials. Nothing has been taken away, talking books and Braille resources are still available.

Q: Are there any hospital sites or GP practices providing virtual group clinics in Northumberland? There are many patients who attended face to face group clinics who are now isolated and unsupported because of Covid.

A: Alistair answered. We need to separate group support, group education and group consultation. At present none are happening because it hasn’t been possible to get multiple people on to a secure platform. Zoom doesn’t meet the secure standards of the NHS. We’re looking into how group support and education could be delivered but it is harder to provide group consultations as there are issues with confidentiality. There is no way of knowing whether someone is recording the session. However, there are definitely opportunities here.

Q: What about increasing digital engagement and capacity building to facilitate digital engagement, especially those most at risk of poor health outcomes?

A: Judith answered. She said this is an issue which was discussed pre-Covid and inspired her to think about how people experiencing financial difficulties might not differentiate between letters in plain white envelopes from the NHS and elsewhere. There are plans to try to understand why people are not coming to appointments and what is preventing access. The pilots for the community hubs should help people develop digital skills. The Trust is also trying to make the language clearer on any letters sent out and will keep looking at data to help make improvements.

Q: Younger people might find digital engagement difficult if home is not a safe place or in cases of domestic abuse. How sensitive are services to these issues and how will it be addressed?

A: Alistair answered. There is a higher rate of mobile phone ownership and usage among young people. This is quite empowering as it is easier to make a quick call away from home rather than attend a face-to-face appointment which may be difficult if living with a controlling person. There are ways which people can signal over video if they are being threatened. The greater worry is that there are people who aren’t accessing health services at all.

Q: I recognise the value of digital consultation but it is still necessary to have face-to-face appointments. Can you reassure people digital appointments are not going to be the poor relation?

A: Alistair answered. If you need to examine someone you can only really do that by physical contact. People shouldn’t think of remote consultation as second class. It’s often just as good for information and sharing as face-to-face and the same amount of time for the clinician. It’s about choosing the right tool for the job.

Q: What about those practices who don’t have video links? Is connectivity in GP practices an issue?

A: Alistair answered. 90% of remote consultations are over the phone and all practices have phones. Every practice is also wired up for video consultations. Connectivity is more of a problem at the patients’ end. Sometimes image quality can be quite poor on video so texting a photo can be clearer.

Q: Is Northumbria Healthcare willing to look at the confidentiality agreements regarding virtual group clinics? There are many examples of virtual group clinics with confidentiality agreements templates in place.

A: The Trust is in discussions with Attend Anywhere (the system we use for virtual consultations) and they have confirmed they are planning to introduce a module for group consultations.  They are hoping to have something in development this year with a plan to introduce next year.  We are also looking into Microsoft Teams to see if this could be an option.  We would be interested to see an example of one of these confidentiality agreements and what platform is being used.


Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 21 October 2020 draft minutes

Safe Hospital Visiting Piloted Locally

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is piloting reintroducing visiting safely to some of its inpatient wards in hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside.

Working with relatives, the trust is putting in place an appointment system to enable people to visit loved ones on wards at Alnwick Infirmary, Berwick Infirmary, Blyth Community Hospital, Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital and medicine, care of the elderly and mental health wards at Wansbeck, Hexham and North Tyneside general hospitals.

The relatives of patients in these pilot areas will be contacted to make arrangements to visit if they wish. If anyone has any questions about the pilot, or are unsure whether the ward on which their loved one is staying is part of it, they should contact the ward directly.

Reintroducing visiting at The Northumbria hospital and surgical wards at general hospitals are currently NOT included in the pilot, however, a review is ongoing and the trust aims to expand it to more inpatient areas in due course should it prove safe and workable.

The trust suspended visiting in mid-March to protect its patients and staff and help reduce the spread of coronavirus except in the following circumstances which remain unchanged:

For patients who are receiving end-of-life care
For birthing partners in maternity units
For parents or legal guardians in the children’s unit
At the discretion of the nurse in charge for long-stay patients and those with dementia

There is also currently no visiting to day units, endoscopy, x-ray, oncology areas.

Marion Dickson, executive director for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Protecting our patients and staff is our top priority and while it is not the right time to lift our suspension of visiting completely, we’re committed to working with relatives to safely introduce visiting in pilot areas.

“Our ward teams across Northumberland and North Tyneside are contacting the relatives of patients where visiting is to be allowed to make arrangements. We’d urge people not just to turn up to a ward to visit without first speaking to staff to make an appointment as they will not be allowed in. Anyone with queries should contact the ward directly.

“Whilst our Northumbria hospital and some wards at our general hospitals are excluded from the pilot at this stage, we’d like to reassure people that we are looking at how it is working and plan to include more wards when it is appropriate to do so.”

To keep everyone safe during the pilot, the numbers of visitors on wards at any one time will be limited and visiting will be restricted to up to an hour a day per patient. On arrival on the ward, visitors would need to wash their hands and wear a face covering, gloves and apron throughout their visit. It must also be the same visitor per patient throughout the pilot and visitors will be required to give their contact details to the ward staff.

Arrangements to make iPads available on wards across the trust to facilitate virtual visiting will remain in place. Friends and relatives are also able to stay connected to their loved ones in hospital by ringing 0191 293 4306, available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Marion added: “We appreciate that it has been difficult for people not being able to visit loved ones in hospital over the last few months and we would like to thank them for their co-operation and understanding.”

Nurse talking to a man in a hospital

Become the heartbeat of your local NHS

If you’re passionate about the NHS, then joining Northumbria HealthcareNHS Foundation Trust as a member will give you the opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas about the way the trust delivers care to over half a million people across Northumberland and North Tyneside.  Northumbria Healthcare is a forward thinking organisation and at the forefront of pioneering changes in the NHS, so it’s a great time to join.

You can be involved as much or as little as you like, from simply receiving e-newsletters and voting papers to donating your time as a volunteer or standing for election to become a trust governor. It is free to become a member and you can opt out at any time.

To join please complete the short online membership form.