North Cumbria Health Services in Chaos

2nd October 2013

  • ‘Closer to Home’ close to collapse, health summit reveals
  • No new community hospitals in Millom, Maryport & Keswick
  • Renewed fears over services at the West Cumberland Hospital
  • No end in sight to acquisition

Copeland MP and Shadow Health Minister Jamie Reed has described health services across North Cumbria as being ‘in chaos’ following his summit with leading health chiefs this week. He said:

“Our area has some superb clinicians and medical practitioners providing good levels of care in an atmosphere of organizational meltdown. It’s difficult for most people to appreciate the scale of the chaos in our local health services right now. I called this summit to flush out issues of concern and the reality is worse than I feared was possible.
“This community campaigned hard during the ‘Closer to Home’ (CTH) consultation in 2008/9. We fought for key clinical services at the West Cumberland Hospital, for a new West Cumberland Hospital and for the future of our community hospitals. We were promised a new hospital with its key consultant-led services retained and in return for accepting change, we were promised that new community hospitals would be built in Millom, Maryport and Keswick.
“My recent FoI request to the NCUHT confirmed that recent changes to services at the WCH are not consistent with CTH and the summit revealed that the new community hospitals in Millom, Maryport and Keswick will not now be built.
“Further to this – despite the full support of the CCG – NCUHT now says it may only be able to deliver 95% of what was promised in CTH and cannot give any certainty or assurance about the future services that will be provided at the West Cumberland Hospital. The projected number  of patient transfers from Whitehaven to Carlisle has proven to be hopelessly  inaccurate. Many more patients are being transferred than was promised and this is placing huge pressure upon the CIC whilst operating theatres at the WCH are sometimes idle. This is resulting in some patients at Carlisle waiting over 11 hours in A&E and in the cancellation of elective surgery. There are even suggestions that the CIC is sending patients elsewhere for surgery such is the bottle-neck that has been caused.
“Incredibly, there are suggestions – discussed in papers presented to the NCUHT Clinical Policy Group at Carlisle on September 20th– that bed numbers could be reduced at the WCH and that maternity services might be removed. NCUHT told the summit this wasn’t being considered; their own papers say that it is. Other papers from the same event also show that moving high risk emergency general surgery from the WCH to CIC ‘risks’ a ‘loss of support to other departments at WCH’ including the core services we were promised in ‘closer to home’ such as A&E, ITU, medicine, Paediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
“I cannot stand for this, and the people of West Cumbria will not accept it. Right now CTH looks close to collapse, promises made in detail to this community look set to be broken.
“Further to this, the acquisition of NCUHT shows no signs of being resolved and organisational turmoil will exist for at least another year unless Monitor and the CQC are quickly assured of the financial and clinical sustainability of the trust. Given government cuts to the NHS, it’s almost impossible to see how either status can be achieved in the foreseeable future – I have raised these issues with Jeremy Hunt regularly. To date, he refuses to intervene.
“The summit was told that the Government’s reorganisation of the NHS resulted in three years of turmoil during which time it was impossible to make any progress on delivering CTH.  This vandalism has set us back years.
“We must develop solutions from this carnage. We must deliver CTH and everyone involved in providing local health services must be honest with patients and the public. I will be setting out how this can be done – including the use of public meetings – in coming days.”

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