Whitehaven News column – 27th March 2014

Calling all Patients & Medical Professionals
No institution, however special, whatever its national importance ever has been or ever can be free from criticism – the monarchy, the church, Parliament are all proof of this. But when criticisms are made of the NHS, let us try to find the reasons for the criticisms, identify the problems and solve them.
As a Shadow Health Minister, I am deluged on a daily basis with anxious reports from patients and medical professionals around the country detailing the ruinous effects of the government’s policies on the NHS, but locally, these reports are now reaching fever pitch.
Hardly a week passes without constituents or medics contacting me to express their fears over health services – not just those provided by the West Cumberland Hospital, but elsewhere, too. If my casework is anything to go by – and it is usually a very effective barometer – we are seeing a crisis in mental health services right now. Essentially, we are witnessing an explosion in demand for mental health services at a time in which those providing those services are being stretched to financial breaking point and the structures of the NHS have been incoherently reorganised. At the same time, hospital patients in the WCH are coming out of hospital feeling sorry for an over-burdened, under resourced team of nurses who are struggling to cope with the scale of the under-staffing. Of course this has an effect upon the care the patient receives, but it burns out the  medical staff, too. In Millom, people are being forced to wait hours for ambulances as an overburdened ambulance service struggles to cover rural areas and now trainee doctors are being withdrawn from the WCH and a senior clinician has told me in precise detail how this move has placed both our hospital in Whitehaven and the CIC in Carlisle at risk of “falling over”…
In the meantime, the world’s longest running hospital acquisition looms in the background, an acquisition which has been strangled by incoherent government policy, constantly changing structures and uncertain budgets. Our hospital trust has been placed into limbo and the uncertainty has made recruitment incredibly difficult and, as a result, certain services hard to provide. Fundamentally, this is a crisis made in Downing St, but the well-being of local patients is my primary concern.
Before this hospital acquisition goes ahead, we need certainty about which services will be provided by the WCH. To date, the Trust has responded to these concerns with a conspiracy of silence. This isn’t acceptable and if answers aren’t forthcoming soon, then real questions about the acquisition will be asked.
But I need your help. If you work in the Health Service, if you are a patient, or if you know anyone who has received treatment, I want to know of your experiences – good and bad. If you’re a patient; what has worked well for you that should be built upon? If you’re a Doctor; do you fear for the services you provide in the future? If you’re a nurse; what kind of a difference could you make if you had more nurses alongside you?

Let me know your views. Let’s do everything we can to get the health services we deserve and let nobody in Downing St or elsewhere be in any doubt that we will do whatever it takes to get them. 
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