Saturday, March 24, 2007

WCH Consultants set out hospital blueprint

I was most interested to see the blueprint set out this week by Consultants at West Cumberland Hospital for the services they say West Cumbrian patients need to ensure safe services in the future.

After kicking off a "Great Debate" the Primary Care Trust (PCT) is writing a so called ‘Grand Plan’ for local health services. However, doctors at WCH say there are certain essential requirements which they are concerned must be included. Otherwise, they believe “the delivery of safe emergency care cannot be guaranteed at WCH”.

The consultants want the public to be aware of these issues ready for when the health plan goes out for yet another consultation in early June. Prior to publication of the "Grand Plan", the consultants feel that Cumbria Primary Care Trust and North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust should commit themselves to:

- A core of consultants based at WCH in medicine/elderly care, surgery, orthopaedics, obstetrics/gynaecology, paediatrics, emergency department (A&E), anaesthetics, radiology/laboratory.

- Recognition that in order to attract and retain consultants in West Cumbria, routine procedures provided at WCH “must not become second best to Carlisle”.

The doctors also say that certain elements should definately NOT appear in the Grand Plan:

- Any intention to transfer emergency cases away from WCH other than those that already have to be;

- consultants based at Carlisle but covering WCH for emergency care.

The Consultants expect the new PCT document is likely to acknowledge there must be further concentration of specialities on one site, but unless it states clearly that WCH will get its share of those they say that recruitment of adequate numbers of consultants at WCH can not be guaranteed.

Bert van Mourik, a consultant anaesthetist at WCH, said: “The current trend is for specialities with relatively small numbers of patients to be concentrated on one site. This is hard to argue against on grounds of quality, but to date, when this has happened in Cumbria, Carlisle is chosen as that site. Unless this trend is reversed and those ‘single site’ services are shared between the two sites, WCH will struggle to retain and recruit enough consultants to provide emergency care.

“The number of consultants in all those specialities must also be enough to make the level of commitment to out-of-hours work reasonable.”

Local consultants want to see “an unequivocal commitment to the provision of emergency care at WCH, but more than that, the plan needs to show that the Trust is going to distribute ALL its services between the two sites in a way that ensures the future viability of WCH, even if that means patients travelling from Carlisle to Whitehaven for some elective services”.

Their views are largely based on Option B from a previous review of health services a couple of years ago. That option was to provide two acute general hospitals, both providing a full range of emergency services, including adequate intensive care facilities and full range of specialities.The conclusions of that review were that large scale transfer of acutely ill patients is unacceptable as it represents a “major inequity in the quality of care for patients at opposite ends of the area”.

Formal consultation into the new Grand Plan is expected to start in early June and last for three months. During this time staff and the public will be able to comment on the proposals.Michael Walker, Medical Director, with the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, told the Whitehaven News that “It is vital that we can be confident that the hospital services we provide for the population of North Cumbria are not only of the highest standard but accessible, safe and sustainable. The Trust management team will continue to work with our clinicians to ensure the best possible use of both hospital sites to achieve these aims and will insure that taxpayers’ money is used to best effect in providing the sort of modern high quality services that Cumbrian residents deserve.

“In line with best practice nationally, this modernisation will mean centralisation of some highly specialised services, whilst at the same time, making sure that patients can be treated locally for emergencies and more common problems.”

I realise that the community is suffering from a serious "Consultation fatigue" having had at least five major health consultations in the past three years - indeed, I thought hte "Great Debate" consultation was still open and yet the PCT is already preparing to launch another one. However, it is incredibly important that we all take part. If we don't show that we value our local services, WE WILL LOSE THEM.

(Most of the information on this post came from Gillian Ellison and the Whitehaven News)


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