Saturday, December 15, 2007

Who runs the NHS in Cumbria?

I was asked a question this week - which trust is responsible for the NHS in Cumbria?

It's a good question because there is no one answer.

The "Purchasing" authority for health services in Cumbria is the Cumbria PCT which commissions health care in the county. This body decides which hospitals and trusts to "buy" health care services from and can therefore effectively close hospitals or open new facilities.

However, the actual running of services is done by a range of different trusts and bodies. Acute hospitals serving the West, North, and East of Cumbria are managed by the North Cumbria Acute Services trust which runs the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

Morecombe Bay NHS trust runs the acute hospitals in South Cumbria such as Furness General Hospital (FGH) in the Barrow area, though this trust also covers some of Lancashire.

Our Ambulance service has, sadly in the view of many people, been regionalised and is now run by a North West ambulance trust.

Overarching policy for the region is set by the Strategic Health Authority serving the North West.

Many of these trusts are in the process of applying for "Foundation Trust" status which would give them more autonomy and control over issues such as the right to raise their own funds but would also make them more subject to local democratic influence.

There is a strong argument that there are currently too many tiers of administration in the NHS and that the structure should be simplified. The Conservatives fought the last election on a platform of abolishing the Strategic Health Authority level, devolving responsibilities to the next tier down, and diverting any savings which resulted to patient care.

Though the present government attacked this at the time, they have since halved the number of Strategic Health Authorities.


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