Thursday, November 02, 2017

£46 million new look for West Cumberland Hospital

Plans showing how West Cumberland Hospital will look after another £46 million of investment have been unveiled this week.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health announced that north, west and east Cumbria was in line for up to £100m of investment, including completion of the WCH refurbishment & rebuild project, and a new cancer centre at Carlisle.

Cumbria's NHS organisations have since been working on detailed business cases, which will determine exactly how much money is released..

Designs and information about the current plans for the West Cumberland Hospital scheme have now been released and can be seen in today's Whitehaven News and on the Times and Star website here. It is estimated that this scheme will involve £46 million of further new investment in West Cumberland hospital above and beyond the extensive building programme which opened in 2015.

Cumbria NHS leaders say the completed hospital will be the first of its kind nationally, becoming an "exemplar" for the wider NHS.

The next stage of investment in WCH, Phase two of the overall scheme, estimated to cost £33m, will include renal, chemotherapy, therapies, pre-assessment, consultant-led maternity (obstetrics), gynaecology, a midwife-led maternity unit and office space.

Phase three will create a new build academic campus, in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), at an estimated costof  £13m.

West Cumbrian GP John Howarth, who is joint deputy chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said that after  years of community concern about the future of the hospital, which was in special measures and undergoing a major review of services, things are now changing for the better.

Dr Howarth added that the investment shows national confidence in the West Cumberland Hospital and that the newly-revamped hospital will be a real asset to the area, while the addition of the medical school will help solve long-standing recruitment problems for the long term.

“It’s really exciting. The important message is that we have two new phases of investment coming to the West Cumberland Hospital."

“We (north, west and east Cumbria) have got more than a quarter of all the national capital available to the NHS," he said.

“That shows a real transformation in national confidence. We have a rapidly evolving health system, which has given the confidence to significantly invest in us."

Once approved, it is expected that work will start on phases two and three late next year, to be complete by 2020. These two  phases will run alongside each other.

Dr Howarth stressed that it is not just about the physical buildings, but part of a unique wider plan.

“We are looking at how we make the West Cumberland Hospital the hub of an integrated care system, for Copeland and Allerdale, connecting the acute hospital with all of its services with primary care and community services," he said.

Dr Howarth added that the NHS in Cumbria is leading the way nationally on what he calls “population health”.

“What we have to begin to do is go beyond just delivering services, to have an ambition of improving overall health of the population.

“We therefore want to design a hospital that goes beyond delivering services, but contributes to the wider health and wellbeing of the communities it serves," he explained.

He stressed that Cumbria's NHS trusts are still committed to bed-based care where appropriate, with phase two providing top of the range facilities for patients who need acute care.

Dr Howarth, who is also a professor of primary care at Uclan medical school, believes that the new teaching facilities will also make a major contribution to tackling recruitment and retention problems, where possible recruiting students from Cumbrian schools who want to train and stay to practice in the area.

"I'm really optimistic. These courses are very attractive to students. One of the historic weaknesses we have had, particularly in west Cumbria, is that we have not had our own medical students,"

he said.

“Having our own campus in Whitehaven, for me as a doctor, is game-changing. It will take some years to really have an impact but in the medium to long term it will change our ability to train and retain our own doctors. For me, as a local doctor who has worked all my career here, it’s the most exciting development of that time."

Dr Howarth said overall he feels very positive about the future of the West Cumberland Hospital.

"My first job in the NHS was at the West Cumberland Hospital, in 1983, so this is fantastic to see," he said.

"I think we are going to end up with one of the best facilities in the country, here in west Cumbria.

"Our ambitions for the West Cumberland Hospital are unique. We want to go further than other places have gone.

"There will obviously be bigger hospitals in the country, but as a hospital within a fully integrated health and care system - nobody else has done that. West Cumbria is going to be a national exemplar."

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, added: “The new development plans for West Cumberland Hospital which includes a health village and education facility is exciting news and a positive step in the right direction to implementing a fully integrated health and care system.”

Monday, October 09, 2017

Working Together group meeting, 12th October 2017

The Working Together group which brings together NHS leaders and staff and patient interests to talk about how we can improve the service is holding its next meeting this Thursday (12th October) at Lakes College from 6pm to 8pm and it is open to the public.

Details of the meeting with links to the agenda and to the notes of the previous meeting can be found on the relevant Cumbria NHS website page at

http://www.northcumbriaccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/engagement/co-production-and-the-working-together-group.aspx

Cumbria Health Scrutiny meeting 9th October 2017

I attended the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee meeting today.

The full agenda and papers for the meeting can be found here.

We have not yet heard the outcome of Jeremy Hunt's reference of the committee's call-in of maternity services to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP.) I know Trudy Harrison MP is among those pressing for a resolution of this.

But there was a clear and, in my opinion helpful, response from the North Cumbria NHS Clinical Commissioning Group when members of the committee - quite reasonably - requested assurances that work by the local NHS will not prejudice or be biased against the option which local people support, to maintain consultant-led maternity services at both Carlisle and at West Cumberland Hospital.

Peter Rooney, who is the Chief Operating Officer of NHS North Cumbria CCG (the statutory body with responsibility for deciding what services will be provided in North, West and East Cumbria) said very clearly that the aim of the CCG is to maintain a consultant-led maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital in safe and sustainable manner.

It is of course right that bodies like the Health Scrutiny Committee and Healthwatch should challenge the CCG and the Cumbria NHS on how they are meeting aims like that, and I am neither criticising those who ask questions on the subject or suggesting that we should be complacent. On the contrary for people to state frequently how much we need and depend on these services is helpful.

Nevertheless, it is also important to recognise when positive responses are given and I thought the answers given today were useful and positive.

Clearly when the IRP recommendation and Jeremy Hunt's response are published we will have to look at them very carefully but the key task is to work with the local NHS to ensure we get the best service for patients.

There was a lot of positive material presented today about "working together" (known in the current jargon as "co-production.") Unfortunately a lot of it was couched in the sort of jargon, littered with acronyms and works like "novation" which is not well presented for most of the public to understand. This is something we need to work on.

So here is a bit of plain English - the Working Together group which brings together NHS leaders and staff and patient interests to talk about how we can improve the service is holding its next meeting this Thursday (12th October) at Lakes College from 6pm to 8pm and it is open to the public

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Maternity at WCH referred to Independent Panel

Following the "call in" at the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has referred the "success regime" proposals for maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) asking them to conduct an initial review and report back to him by 4th October on whether a full review is needed.

The progress of the call-in had been discussed when "lead members" of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee (including myself) met the Clinical Commissioning Group last week.

At that stage the formal reference to the IRP had not been officially announced but the CCG did give us an assurance, which we were allowed to repeat in public, that they have not started the clock on the 12 month assessment period referred to in the decision, that they will not do so until the call-in process has officially concluded, and that if that 12 month assessment happens after the review it will not be started without a public announcement to that effect.

This week Jeremy Hunt has written to Cllr Claire Driver, chair of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee, with an update on the progress of the call-in..

He said in the letter: "I am today writing to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) asking them to undertake an initial assessment of your referral.
 
"Should the IRP advise me that a full review is necessary, you will have your chance to present your case to them in full.

"I have asked the panel to report to me no later than Wednesday, October 4."

While the community and the NHS await news of the decision, so-called "co-production" meetings - set up as a platform for the community and health chiefs to collaborate on  how to improve and protect services, have been taking place.

Stephen Eames, chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs both WCH and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, had been expecting news on the referral.

However he stressed that the trust have already made good progress on recruitment at WCH, particularly in paediatrics. This is a key area for consultant-led maternity services, as a paediatrician is needed on site in order to retain the Special Care Baby Unit - vital in dealing with babies born prematurely or with complications.

"We are almost up to full complement in paediatrics," said Mr Eames.

See News and Star article at

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/Jeremy-Hunt-orders-maternity-review-4829e4b1-c0b3-448c-a585-b9e3bb6c34f9-ds

Friday, September 15, 2017

Report back on Health meetings this week

I attended three health meetings this week.

Lead members of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee met with the Clinical Commissioning Group in Carlisle on Wednesday and with the Morecombe Bay Universities Hospital Trust at Westmorland General Hospital yesterday (Thursday 14th September).

These are part of a series of regular meetings between Health Scrutiny councillors and the providers of NHS healthcare in Cumbria. These meetings are a valuable channel of communication.

To permit a frank exchange of views on both sides the meetings take place under what is sometimes known as "Chatham House Rules" - e.g. the health trusts can tell us what they really think about issues like how much money the NHS needs and how things are actually going - on the understanding that we won't go rushing to the press and use it to score political points. By the same token we can raise the health issues that we are most concerned about and the health trusts know that we are not just scoring points because there is no political mileage for us in doing so.

However this does not mean that the meetings are secret - I wouldn't be in a position to publish this post if they were - the fact that they take place is in the public domain and the list of issues discussed is published in due course.

I don't think I would be breaking any rules if I say that both this week's meetings were useful and constructive and there was a frank but positive exchange of views.

The other health meeting I attended this week was the Copeland Health and Wellbeing forum which brings together Cumbria County Council and Copeland Borough Council in their Public Health promotion roles with a large number of private sector and voluntary bodies.

There are far too many such initiatives going on to give full details of them all, but they include

* Well Whitehaven - an initiative centred on Mirehouse ward (though also including a large chunk of Harbour and with impact on neighbouring areas) to support local bottom-up community initiatives to develop more healthy lifestyles

* Stoptober - iff you smoke and are happy with the effect that this has on your body, that is your decision. But if you want to give up, there will be a promotion and support in October to help you to give up smoking in October.

* Alcohol Awareness - there are initiatives in place to encourage those who drink alcohol to do so safely and responsibly

* Falls prevention - an initiative to help people to look at reducing their risk of injury from falls. this will include a "slipper swap" at Whitehaven Library later this month - you can bring an old pair of slippers to Whitehaven Library and they will be replaced with a new pair which will reduce your risk of falling.

* Domestic Violence - review of the position the police statistics for domestic violence in Cumbria generally and in Copeland are absolutely horrifying. Given that most of those who do eventually go to the police say that they didn't do so until after there had been a large number of previous incidents (most often the problem is only reported when a pregnancy changes the situation,) the real incidence of domestic violence including unreported instances may be far worse.  There is no "magic bullet" to solve this but it needs to be addressed.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Mental Health

Mental health is often a Cinderella service which has been neglected by governments of all political colours.

So I am pleased to learn of the announcement by Jeremy Hunt that 21,000 more mental health nurses will be recruited and that £1.3 billion will be spent to treat an extra one million people by 2021.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Quote of the Year

"Anyone who thinks the West Cumberland Hospital doesn't have a future, or that we are closing it, can think again."

Stephen Eames, Chief Executive of Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, on the news that  between £35 million and £50 million of new government money is to be invested in improving facilities and services at West Cumberland Hospital, as quoted in today's Whitehaven News.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cumbria Health Scrutiny meeting 24th July 2017

Cumbria's Health Scrutiny committee - a joint committee run by Cumbria County Council but which also contains one councillor from each of the six districts in the county - met this morning at County Hall in Kendal.

There was an interesting discussion about the minutes of the call-in meetings on 22nd March.

I asked for the work programme for the committee for the forthcoming year to look at the lessons which could be learned from that scrutiny process and this was taken on board.

It was also noted that the committee will be reviewing what actually happens to the service as a result of the decisions the NHS success regime took.

There was also a very interesting presentation to the committee from the NHS care commissioning bodies. Among the issues noted was the challenge of recruiting staff and it was noted that the huge investment which has just been agreed in our local health services - £65 million pounds announced last week -is something we must shout about as it demonstrates that the government and the NHS are committed to the future of local health services in Cumbria.