West Cumberland Hospital: "Give us the truth or stop the acquisition"

3rd September 2014
Copeland MP and Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed has written to local health service commissioners seeking urgent clarity on future service provision at the West Cumberland Hospital.  North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, currently in special measures, is in the process of being acquired by Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust.  Without clarity over the future of services at the hospital, Jamie Reed will call upon the Secretary of State for Health to halt the acquisition.
Copeland MP and Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed MP said:
“Despite repeated requests from me and the public, there is still little or no clarity about the future of services at West Cumberland Hospital.
“The only way to ensure a positive relationship between the North Cumbria Trust, the Northumbria Trust, the Cumbrian Clinical Commissioning Group and the local community is through open and transparent communication.  The silence cannot continue.  Commissioners must understand the widespread concern people across West Cumbria have regarding the future of hospital services at the WCH. 
“If the current situation of uncertainty, rumour and refusal to engage persists, I will ask the Secretary of State to intervene to halt the acquisition.
“The patients, public and medical professionals of West Cumbria deserve better. We can do something special at the WCH, but we need to satisfy ourselves about the future of services at the hospital if this acquisition is to be allowed to proceed and command popular support.”

The full text of the letter to local health commissioners is copied below:

Dear Ann,
I know that you are aware of the ongoing public concerns regarding the provision of services by the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust at the West Cumberland Hospital. Notwithstanding the chaos that the NHS has been plunged into by government policy and the damage that this is causing to the service nationally, there is widespread public fear and anxiety regarding the future of local hospital services.
Clearly, the imposition of special measures, changes to regulatory structures, the wholesale reorganisation of the NHS and the ongoing uncertainty regarding the acquisition of North Cumbria University Hospitals Acute Trust have not benefited the West Cumberland Hospital or the Cumberland Infirmary. This unprecedented uncertainty has contributed directly to growing public fears regarding hospital services in West Cumbria.
Despite prior support, it is my belief that the medical team at the West Cumberland Hospital no longer supports the acquisition of the Trust by Northumbria NHS Trust. Unarguably, the stability that the acquisition was meant to ensure has never materialised and repeated requests for clarity and transparency from me and from members of the public regarding future service provision at the West Cumberland Hospital following the proposed acquisition of the Trust continue to go unanswered.
We are now at a critical point. Without clarity regarding the future provision of services at the West Cumberland Hospital I will have no option but to ask the Secretary of State for Health and the relevant regulatory bodies to intervene to stop the acquisition process until such a time when the West Cumbrian public is consulted on the future provision of hospital services following the proposed acquisition.
It is in the best interests of Northumbria and North Cumbria Trusts to undertake such a process and provide the necessary clarity prior to the acquisition being completed. Without this, it is hard to see how public faith or the faith of the local medical workforce with regard to the intentions of either Trust can be ensured – this would only worsen the difficulties facing the North Cumbrian health economy.
I am convinced that we can achieve something special at the West Cumberland Hospital; potentially providing a national template for how hospital services can best be provided and clinical excellence can best be attained in a sparsely populated, remotely situated community.
The prerequisite to achieving this is for local commissioners to now provide categoric clarity regarding the services that will be offered by the West Cumberland Hospital following acquisition.
I hope that this will now be provided without delay. It is time to end the doubts and remove the fears regarding services at the West Cumberland Hospital. The people, patients and medical professionals of West Cumbria deserve better.
With sincere best wishes

Jamie Reed MP
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