Whitehaven News column – 17th July 2014

Enough is enough
On becoming Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley said that he wanted Cumbria to be a model for the rest of the country. Four years on and three of Cumbria’s four largest hospitals – the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and Furness General Hospital in Barrow are in special measures. Rural GP surgeries are facing closure and there is a recruitment crisis across primary and secondary care that has caused GPs to warn of patient deaths if immediate attention isn’t given to these problems. The Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, in its interim five year plan talks of the challenges to Cumbria, and of “austerity in the NHS”. Before the last election, the Prime Minister promised a “bare knuckled fight” for the services provided by hospitals such as those in Cumbria, yet the Cumbria CCG is now considering the wholesale reconfiguration of hospital services. What a cynical deception that promise has proven to be.
I have made these points to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary time and time again, yet they have proven to be consistently deaf to these concerns. Cumbria is this country’s second largest county, we have a population of just under half a million people broadly dispersed across both urban and rural areas. The well being of our county’s health economy should now be an urgent priority for the Department of Health. This government’s policies have done much to harm health services in Cumbria and it is now time for the Secretary of State to instruct his department and NHS England to establish a specifically tasked working group, working alongside local clinicians, to investigate, understand and resolve the issues facing the Cumbrian health economy. I have written to Jeremy Hunt to request this – I’ll keep you updated on any response, should one arrive.
Tragically, Andrew Lansley and David Cameron’s NHS ‘reforms’ really are showing that what has happened in Cumbria is now happening across much of the country too. In this at least, they have been successful.
Who cares?
The Westminster media bubble was at its breathless worst this week as it swung into full re-shuffle mania. In case you missed it, various politicians were given pay rises and placed into jobs that nobody outside Westminster has heard of. William Hague will be missed – he performed the role of Foreign Secretary with a sure touch, often having to dig our Prime Minister out of a series of embarrassing and poorly thought-through decisions. Hague reinvented himself as a politician, he served our country well as a Foreign Secretary, Parliament will be the poorer for his absence when he leaves at the next election.

Meanwhile, as people all over the country watch national political journalists fawning over their next new best friends in the Cabinet, they could be forgiven for thinking about their struggling local school, under staffed hospital, sub-standard care home, closing local factory or their poverty pay and wondering just what the hell this self-congratulatory circus will have done to improve their lives this week.

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