Friday, September 28, 2007


I am still absorbing the consultation document about the future of NHS services in Cumbria. But three key things stand out.

The Trust needs to explain very much more clearly how exactly the proposal that Out-of Hours emergency surgery should no longer take place at the West Cumberland will work. On the face of it this does not appear to make sense.

Either there is a clear need for consultant led A&E service in West Cumbria, or there isn’t. If there is, it needs to be provided 24/7. How could you possibly argue that someone who has a heart attack in office hours needs a hospital in West Cumbria but it’s OK for anyone who has one at night to go to Carlisle?

Despite the initial spin, it appears that a significant reduction in beds is proposed both at Community Hospitals – despite their increased role – and at the hospital which replaces the West Cumberland. I am not convinced by the arguments for this. There has been a statistical smokescreen in the press, and the document uses clever language designed to make a cut in beds sound like part of an effective reconfiguration of service to meet modern requirements, but nevertheless this cut in beds seems to me to fly in the face of patient needs.

We still need to be very clear on what sort of intensive care is provided. Without adequate intensive care support neither A&E nor maternity are viable.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Start date for the "Closer to Home" consultation

We were advised today at a meeting of Copeland Borough Council that the formal start of the "Closer to Home" consultation into Hospital and Health services in Cumbria is 27th September.

This consultation is about proposals which could radically affect healthcare in our area. I very strongly urge anyone who cares about local NHS services to take part in the consultation.

Because the preferred option retains consultant-led Accident and Emergency, and Maternity, units at the successor hospital to the West Cumberland, and does not propose the closure of any community hospitals, it has been generally welcomed. But as the Whitehaven News put it, it is a bit premature to start popping the champagne corks. These proposals need to be examined very carefully.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Read the Whitehaven News today

The front page of today's Whitehaven News is largely given over to details of the consultation "Closer to home" about the future of the NHS in Cumbria.

The headline concentrates on the good news - that the preferred option recommends retention of consultant-lead Accident & Emergency, Maternity, and Paediatric services at the West Cumberland Hospital and ultimately at the new hospital proposed to replace it.But as the paper's leading article points out, it is way too early to start celebrating or popping the champagne corks.

The consultation also appears to propose a significantly smaller hospital, with substantially fewer beds and fewer services. The move of complex surgery to Carlisle, which has already taken place without consultation, would be confirmed.

It is not yet clear what level of Intensive Care will be provided or how many beds in the ITU (Intensive Care Unit).

Elderly care after 72 hours seems likely to be removed - some of this will be taken up be boosting the role of Community Hospitals like Millom and Keswick, but as it also appears to be proposed to reduce the number of beds at Community Hospitals by at least a quarter overall, I am concerned about whether all the pictures of the jigsaw fit together.

Overall there seems to be some good news but still some major causes for concern.

I would strongly recommend that anyone in Cumbria who cares about our local NHS should get hold of a copy of the "Closer to Home" consultation document when it comes out in about two weeks, read it very carefully, and respond.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Reminder - have your say about local hospitals.

The long-awaited public consultation on the future of Health services in Cumbria, "Close to Home" is still expected to be launched on or about 19th September. It is expected to cover all health issues in the county including the future of West Cumberland Hospital, Millom Community Hospital, and Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick: it will also cover GP and dental services. The consultation will last some 13 weeks.

The Primary Care Trust has decided to go for an Open Day format in which people can drop in to speak to NHS representatives on a 1:1 basis. The lack of public meetings makes it all the more important that everyone with an interest in the future of our local hospitals and health services should come along to the Open Day events and have your say.