Monday, January 14, 2008

Civic hall crammed full for hospital public meeting

Hundreds of local residents crowded into Whitehaven Civic Hall this evening to attend a public meeting about the "Closer to Home" proposals on local hospitals. The room holds about 250 seats but very large numbers of people stood for two hours at the back and sides of the room. There were probably at least 400 people there to send a strong message that local residents support our local hospital services and demand first class healthcare.

At the start of the meeting it was explained by the Reverend John Bannister on behalf of the "Save our Services" campaign group that there has been significant progress on improving the proposals in the past few days.

There have been substantial discussions between the PCT, Acute Hospitals Trust, local clinicians, and the Save Our Services group for several months, and over the past few days progress has been made on resolving the concerns of campaigners and doctors, which include substantial changes being made in the "Closer to Home" proposals.

In the first place, it is no longer proposed to centralise all Major Trauma care in North Cumbria at Carlisle.

The exact form of words which should be used to describe future arrangements for Trauma Care was the subject of debate between doctors at the meeting. However, it is clear that the Acute Trust and PCT have recognised that treating all patients in the most appropriate place will mean that arrangements are necessary to treat some badly injured or very sick people, who cannot safely be moved forty miles over bad roads, at the West Cumberland Hospital.

I asked a question about this at the meeting: there is clearly some welcome movement on this subject, but it is extemely important that we get a cast iron promise from the trusts, using a form of words acceptable to the hospital consultants and to the public, that emergency and trauma care will be retained at the West Cumberland hospital, especially for those for whom the absence of that care would cause a serious risk.

There has also been a change in the proposed reduction in bed numbers at the West Cumberland hospital - originally from the present 320 beds to 172 acute beds plus 20 community beds. The Acute Trust is now proposing a guaranteed minimum of 220 acute beds at West Cumberland Hospital, with the possibility of going up to 250 beds if the efficiency improvements they are working towards are not acheived.

There has been some confusion about whether the bed numbers quoted for the West Cumberland Hospital include or exclude the proposed 20 intermediate "step up/step down" beds to provide "Community hospital" type services. My reading of the original document is that the figure of 192 beds originally proposed in the "Closer to Home" document did include the intermediate beds, so that only leaves 172 acute beds. However, the statement read out on behalf of Save our Services group by John Bannister refers to there as now being 220 acute beds.

We must remain vigilant on this issue. A representative of the Primary Care Trust (PCT) referred to the number of beds at WCH by saying that the PCT is consulting on proposals for 192 beds but that Acute Trust has now proposed 220. However, it does seem that there is welcome progress.

There were also welcome signs of progress on issues of palliative care and of stroke treatment.

It remains extremely important that as many people as possible respond to the consultation and make clear that West Cumbria needs our hospital services. As speaker after speaker said at the meeting, this is not the end of the story and we need to keep up the pressure.


Post a Comment

<< Home