Sunday, 21 June 2009

Accident and Emergency

A specialist A&E Hospital at the Moor Farm roundabout in Cramlington is being proposed by the Northumberland & North Tyneside Health Trust (NNTHT). The formal consultation is running through till next month.

Their argument is that for serious ‘blue light’ emergencies, a concentration of specialist care is better for patients that having that care spread across three (local) general hospitals. The general hospitals will still offer ‘walk-in’ A&E care, and patients will normally decanted out to these more local hospitals after 2-3 days, but the specialist hospital will have consultants available 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

Newcastle Hospitals Trust (NHT) points out that their new regional trauma centre and other specialist hospitals are only eight minutes away (by ‘blue light’ ambulance) from the proposed site, and there is a risk of duplication of function.

NNTHT need a catchment area of 0.5million pop to provide enough accidents and emergencies to make their new hospital viable both financial and in providing sufficient professional challenge for the concentration of consultants. That’s why North Tyneside was added onto Northumberland in the first place. And that explains the choice of location, which is a population-weighted mean – it’s the place that’s nearest most people. So – as usual, sparsely populated north and far west Northumberland miss out.

I’m concerned about transport access: Moor Farm roundabout is already one of the most congested points on the Northumberland road network and walking, cycling and public transport access is poor. As far as I can tell, there has been no assessment of traffic impact, and the Trust has only just thought about talking to the Highways Agency. Even disregarding the need for car-free access, there’s a serious risk that ‘blue light’ ambulances will get snarled up in congestion of the hospital’s own making.

Then – there’s the standard climate change question: I’ll (generously?) assume they’ll go for a low carbon operation, but will they design and build to cope with the inevitable climate changes that will occur within the 50-60 year planned lifetime of the building?

As usual – watch this space….

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