16th March 2015
Representatives from the Sellafield Workers’ Campaign and Copeland MP, Jamie Reed, have taken the fight for the West Cumberland Hospital to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Energy, and Secretary of State for Health, the SWC has expressed grave concerns regarding the future of the West Cumberland Hospital and the services provided there. More than 10,000 people work on the Sellafield site, and many thousands more jobs will be created by the construction of the adjacent new-build nuclear power station at Moorside.
North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust has been in special measures for some time, and its hospitals face an acute staffing shortage, with key services being moved from the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, a distance of more than 40 miles.
The letter calls on the government to recognise the unique national role undertaken by the Sellafield workforce and the West Cumbrian community, and demands an end to the further transfer of vital services from the West Cumberland Hospital. The letter also calls for increased investment in the Hospitals Trust in order for them to be able to recruit the adequate level of staff.
Jamie Reed MP said: “The Sellafield Workers’ Campaign is speaking for the entire community. We have repeatedly made this case to government and our voice must be heard and our unique national role recognised.”
The letter sent to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, as follows:
Dear Prime Minister,
The Sellafield Workers Campaign exists to advocate the continued development of the Sellafield site and other nuclear developments in West Cumbria in a safe, sustainable manner, in the local and national interest.
We represent over 10,000 workers on the Sellafield site and in addition to being advocates for the industry, we have always been advocates for the wider community. Any community hosting a site of national strategic importance such as Sellafield should expect a constructive relationship with any government, and for its concerns to be understood and acted upon given the unique role it plays in serving our national interest.
That is why we have grave concerns with regard to the future of the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. The West Cumberland Hospital serves the community in which Sellafield is located. This hospital is in special measures, it is facing an acute staff shortage, and services are being and have been moved from the hospital to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, over 40 miles away. In no way does this consistent deterioration of services acknowledge the unique national service undertaken by the Sellafield workforce and the wider community.
Alongside the Copeland MP, Jamie Reed, we have campaigned consistently not only for service improvements and greater investments in the West Cumberland Hospital, but for new nuclear build in West Cumbria. Nuclear new-build in the shape of three new nuclear reactors is now imminent at Moorside, close to Sellafield, and this will result in the likely influx of thousands of people into the area in the near future. The new submarine building programme in nearby Barrow-in-Furness and other investments in the area over the same period of reactor construction means that the total investment in our area will be larger than the Olympics in scale.
Clearly, the removal of services from the West Cumberland Hospital in this context is foolhardy and totally unjustifiable.
The Cumbrian health economy is experiencing the most prolonged period of intense pressure it has ever faced. Many working within it believe that it is on the verge of collapse. Over recent years in particular, the system within the county as a whole has moved from one crisis to another.
We want to place on record our support for those people working within the Cumbrian health economy and the West Cumberland Hospital in particular who work tirelessly to provide high quality patient care in increasingly difficult circumstances. Despite these pressures, it is the efforts of these people – above and beyond what they are paid for or which should ordinarily be expected – who are preventing systemic collapse from taking place.
Cumbria is England’s second largest county. The population of the county – less than 500,000 people – is disparate. The terrain is difficult and the infrastructure inadequate. In addition, the county is home to startling social and economic inequalities.
The issues in relation to the West Cumberland Hospital are clear:
· Staff recruitment and retention
· Locum expenditure
· Maintenance of clinical standards whilst retaining accessibility to services
Primary care is also under incredible pressure. The most recent GP Patient Survey shows that over 60,000 people in Cumbria had to wait more than a week to see a GP the last time they tried. This is likely to be a conservative figure.
None of these issues are new, but progress has stalled in recent years and the situation is worsening.
The Sellafield Workers Campaign cannot accept this deterioration in service and we now call upon you to recognise the unique national role undertaken by this workforce and this community by stopping the further reduction of services at the West Cumberland Hospital, by increasing investment in the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust so that adequate levels of staff can be recruited across the region and by ensuring that front line services remain at the West Cumberland Hospital so that there will always be a meaningful, fit for purpose service to deal with the specifics of a nuclear incident at the site.
We look forward to your urgent reply.
The Sellafield Workers’ Campaign
Unite the Union