Campaigners fighting to save beds at a cottage hospital have accused NHS bosses of failing to consider alternatives to its closure.
The plan to permanently shut the 12-bed inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital in Northumberland has already sparked protest marches and a petition.
NHS managers have said the facility is under used.
Residents say the area has a high proportion of vulnerable, older people who need local hospital beds.
'Major human impact'
Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) chief clinical officer Dr Alistair Blair said the hospital's beds had "been used less and less" over the last few years.
"With the pressures in the NHS it doesn't make sense to have a resource that's just not being used to its full potential," he said.
David Blakeburn from the Save Rothbury Cottage Hospital Campaign group said the beds were needed for "palliative care, end of life care, respite and for post-operative care".
"One of the major human impacts of the closure" was that families would have to travel to hospitals in Wansbeck or Cramlington to visit relatives in acute beds, he said.
The CCG wants to replace the hospital with a health and wellbeing centre and more care in the community.
It proposes to use video links so patients can have consultations with specialists at hospitals further away.
A three-month consultation runs until 25 April.