Thursday, February 08, 2007

Don't celebrate too soon !

I was, of course, very pleased to hear senior officials of the new Cumbria Primary Care Trust say at they Keswick public meeting that they want to keep all the Community Hospitals in Cumbria. They very clearly distanced themselve from the policy of the previous North Cumbria PCT, which had considered the possibility of taking beds away from these hospitals, or even closures, to save money.

I gather that an even stronger statement in support of Community Hospitals was given by the PCT at the Carlisle public meeting this Monday. This has been taken in many quarters as an indication that the Community hospitals in Cumbria are now safe.

Obviously it is good news that we now appear to have people in leadership positions in the local NHS who more clearly appreciate that the Community Hospitals are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

However, this does not mean that those who value our hospital services can afford to take our eye off the ball. After the positive statement in support of community hospitals, the PCT speaker qualified it by saying that the services provided by community hospitals in the future would not necessarily be the same as they provide at the moment.

The trouble with this kind of statement is that while it is obviously and inevitably true, it could be used to describe changes which might be good or very bad. I have lost count of the number of times that someone begins by saying that we need a "world class service," continues with the arguement that this means that we need to change, and then produces a set of proposed changes which look like a worse service, not a better one.

I'm quite prepared to take the statements by the PCT that they want to retain and make more use of community hospitals at face value. However, this does not mean that changes in the way they operate and the services they provide will not come forward. When that happens, residents who care about the NHS will still need to look carefully at what is proposed.


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