Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's going on at Cumbria's NHS Trusts?

According to both the Whitehaven News and information I am hearing from several different sources, the NHS Trusts in North and West Cumbria are trying to inhibit the Consultants at the West Cumberland from speaking freely to the press about the current hospital proposals.

If this is true, which I believe to be the case, it is a great shame. We need an open and informed debate about the future of our hospitals, and preventing some of the most knowledgable people involved in the local NHS from speaking their minds will not achieve this.

I am also following up a number of emails which have been sent to me by people who are concerned that there seem to be discrepancies in the register of responses to Freedom of Information requests to the local NHS Trusts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Questions for the PCT - part one

I will be attending a meeting in the near future to discuss questions which we should ask the Cumbria Primary Care Trust about the "Closer to Home" consultation.

Here are a few which have already been asked but still need answers

1) What types of emergency surgery will not be done at the West Cumberland Hospital "out of hours" under the proposal to limit night-time emergency, surgery at the hospital, and how many extra transfers to Carlisle or other hospitals are expected as a result?

2) How many ambulances serve West Cumbria now and how many are expected to be in place under these proposals?

Here are some more

3) Is it anticipated that the maternity unit at the West Cumbria will deliver as high a proportion of babies as at present, or will there be any increase in the number of mothers who have to go to Carlisle or another hospital to give birth?

4) We are told that the proposals to reduce the number of beds at both the West Cumberland and Community hospitals, including Millom and Keswick, are base on the assumptions that bed usage and lengths of stay can be improved to the national average. What evidence is available to demonstrate the proportion of the difference between Cumbrian hospitals and the national averages concerned are due to factors which can be changed, such as hospital operating styles, and characteristics which cannot, such as local demographics?

If you have some more suggested questions I would love to hear them - of you can contact the PCT directly.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Closer to Home - we need more information

Attended several meetings about the "Closer to Home" NHS consultation this week.

For this consultation it is really essential that the trust releases more information about some of the key issues.

For example, nobody can realistically have an informed view on the merits of the proposals that the West Cumberland should not have out-ot-hours emergency surgery until we have figures on how what operations and conditions are involved and how many extra transfers to Carlisle or elsewhere will be necessary as a result.

There have been so many unproductive consultations in the past. If the trust wants us to move forward as a united community they must do more to share information and answer some of the questions coming forward.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Closer to Home

Two consultations in the past 48 hours on the "Closer to Home" NHS proposals: a "drop-in" consultation option at Whitehaven civic hall yesterday which attracted 70 residents and a meeting with Copeland Councillors this evening.

One point of clarification which was made to us: the "Accident and Emergency" department which is proposed at the West Cumberland and the replacement hospital in West Cumbria will provide a full 24/7 service in terms of how the NHS defines Accident and Emergency. However, it would not carry out all types of emergency surgery "out of hours" which we were told means between 9.00 pm and 9.00 am.

Apparently the trust is still evaluating and discussing with doctors how many extra transfers to Carlisle or elsewhere this would mean and hopes to have this information available before the end of the consultation.

Monday, October 08, 2007

"Drop in" session today to learn about NHS plans

There is a session at Whitehaven Civic Hall this evening where local residents can learn about the "Closer to Home" proposals for our local hospitals

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Doctors comment on health proposals

The following article by Gillian Ellison on today's Whitehaven News records the concerns expressed by local consultant Bert van Mouric and other doctors and staff about the "Closer to Home" proposals

Consultant’s fears for urgent ops

By Gillian Ellison, Published on 04/10/2007

Detailed proposals for out-of-hours emergency surgery at West Cumberland Hospital need to be tested out to see if they will work, says a local consultant. Bert van Mourik, a consultant anaesthetist at the hospital, says staff are concerned about the proposal to remove out-of-hours emergency surgery from the hospital and concentrate it all at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle.

An assurance has now been given that the detail of the proposals for emergency surgery – as with other areas of acute hospital care in the Closer to Home plan – is to be looked at with clinicians, starting from next week. The medical director of North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust, Simon Raimes, told The Whitehaven News that the people providing the care at West Cumberland Hospital will be involved in putting all the facts and figures together, looking at patient safety, sustainability and quality of care and deciding whether such a move is workable.

Under The Primary Care Trust’s recently-revealed preferred option for the future of healthcare in Cumbria, a major trauma centre is planned for the Cumberland Infirmary. This would mean that people from West Cumbria requiring emergency surgery out-of-hours would be stabilised and then transferred, a move which would affect few people, it has been said.

But Mr van Mourik says: “At the moment we do large numbers of out-of-hours cases, many of them are complex and some of them are extremely ill. There’s no doubt that the delay caused by transfer would put those already high risk patients at even greater risk.” He added: “The proposals as they stand put a question mark over the future viability of the hospital. And I am very concerned that the reduction of services could lead to the withdrawal of training of junior staff.”

Mr Raimes said: “I can understand the anxiety because there isn’t the detail in it. It is a consultation document written by the Primary Care Trust, it’s not final. We are looking at what the future provision should be in North Cumbria.” He said the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust’s different care stream groups – which are made up of clinicians – would now put the detail into the document.

“The emergency care stream board needs to define what exactly is emergency surgery and what operations we are talking about. “We transfer some patients to Carlisle for emergency surgery already, and we do it safely.”

Hospital union Unison is planning to invite health secretary Alan Johnson to West Cumbria. Christine Wharrier, Unison convenor at West Cumberland Hospital, said if that is not possible, a delegation of staff and public would be arranged to go to London to meet with him.

NHS Consultation sessions

There is an open day next Monday (8th October) in Whitehaven Civic Hall, between 2pm and 8pm, where people can learn more about future health service plans.

This is an opportunity to find out about the "Closer To Home" document which is finally out for public consultation.

The Whitehaven event is the first open day of a series being held around the county. Other events being held in Copeland are:

* October 31, Egremont Town Council, 3pm-6pm;
* November 7, Millom Network Centre, 4pm-7pm;
* November 16, Gosforth Village Hall, 4pm-7pm.

It is expected that there will be a range of doctors and senior staff from the Primary Care Trust (PCT) available to answer questions and concerns.

The consultation runs until 4th January 2008, and other ways to get involved include

* visit the consultation website online at www.closertohome.cumbriapct.nhs.uk
* telephone the hotline number 0844 7280107.

A response form is included with the document. The last date to return it is 4th January 2008, and it should be sent to the following address:

Closer To Home, Cumbria Primary Care Trust, Penrith Community Hospital, Bridge Lane, Penrith CA11 8HX.

More information about the consultation is also available on the Whitehaven News website at