Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Debate continues on maternity beds

A mother who recently gave birth at the West Cumberland has made an appeal through local papers against any reduction in the number of maternity and SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) beds at the hospital.

The trusts have promised that they are involving the clinicians in the discussions about bed numbers at WCH, but this is one area which everyone will scrutinise in great detail. We must make sure the hospital has enough maternity beds.

What do you think? The consultation may have finished but we should all continue to make sure the PCT and Acute Hospitals Trust cannot ignore local views.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NHS Mental Health consultation deferred

The consultation on Mental Health care in Cumbria which had been due to begin in March has now been deferred to begin in early May.

The reason given by the trust for the delay is that some parts of the county (such as Carlisle and Barrow) have council elections at the beginning of May, and the election campaigns might affect the consultation. It was therefore felt better to start the NHS consultation shortly after the local election campaigns.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Flower boost to WCH

Congratulations to Boonwood Garden Centre near Gosforth, and their customers, who raised £662 for the A&E department at West Cumberland Hospital by putting out a donations bucket for the hospital over Christmas

Thursday, February 14, 2008

WCH to lose maternity beds ?

The Whitehaven News has a story suggesting that as part of the reduction in bed numbers resulting from the "Closer to Home" consultation, the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven might lose eight maternity beds, (dropping from 23 to 15).

It is also suggested that two beds might be removed from the SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) and five beds might be lost in paediatrics.

A bed planning exercise was carried out recently by the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS trust following on from discussion about bed numbers during the the "Closer to Home" consultation period. At the moment the trust is refusing to comment about proposed bed numbers, although Marie Burnham did say that the review

"looked at potential areas of bed reductions to improve efficiency wihtout affecting patient care. This will be discussed over the coming months with clinicians."

I want to hear what the consultants have to say about these proposals before jumping to man the barricades but I think it is important that the impact is considered very carefully before any bed reductions are implemented.

Monday, February 04, 2008

NHS agency staff bill exposed

Evidence released under under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that NHS Trusts across the country are paying agency staff extremely high hourly rates, sometimes to cover shifts, sometimes for administrative work. Examples include:

£100 per hour for an HR manager
£93.50 per hour for an IT consultant
£110 per hour for financial staff
£96.75 per hour for a GP
£121.59 per hour for an agency nurse

This comparies with average hourly pay rates in the NHS for permanent staff of about

£15.66 for a nurse;
£24.14 for a junior doctor; and
£60.31 for a consultant.

In 2005/6, the most recent year for which figures are available, the NHS spent £1.18 billion in total on agency staff.

NHS Trusts here in Cumbria have just finished a consultation about the future of our local hospitals. Senior officials in the trusts have said that the amount of money available to fund local health services is one of the factors affecting very difficult decisions they have to take. Meanwhile local doctors, nurses, and hospital staff have been put under enormous pressure, partly due to staff shortages and vacant posts left unfilled.

To learn that NHS trusts elsewhere in the country have been paying agency staff many times the salary paid to an NHS nurse or junior doctor, and much more even than a hospital consultant, makes you wonder whether the difficulties faced by NHS staff and the community in Cumbria might be less great if money throughout the NHS was spent more efficiently.

I would not suggest that there is no role for agency people in the NHS, or criticise the work they do. But when you read some of these rates, and learn that the NHS has been spending over a billion pounds a year on agency staff, you have to ask whether the balance as between permanent staff and agency staff throughout the health service as a whole is either fair to the staff involved or represents the most effective way to care for patients.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Copeland Conservative response to NHS consultation

The following comments were made to the "Closer to Home" consultation on behalf of Copeland Conservatives.

Copeland Conservatives endorse the comments on the "Closer to Home" proposals made by both Copeland Council and Allerdale Council. We would particularly like to emphasise the following issues and concerns.

Firstly, the PCT and Acute Trust must learn from the difficulties experienced during this consultation about the need to improve communication with clinicians, GPs, other staff, and the public. Although there were eventually some welcome improvements made in the proposals as a result of feedback, particularly from Consultants at WCH, it was painfully apparent for most of the consultation period that the efforts made by the trust to engage with consultants and GPs were not working as well as we would all have wished. The commissioning model in "Closer to Home" will not work unless all GPs can be far more effectively involved with the process than many of them evidently were with the consultation.

Secondly, while the revised proposals for care of patients with significant trauma do appear to be a significant step forward, we wish to reiterate that the original form of words in the consultation document would not have been acceptable.

Thirdly, we welcome the proposals to invest more money in the ambulance service: this is and will remain a key part of providing medical care in an area with the sort of geography which Cumbria has, and it will be necessary to work to improve it.

Fourthly, while the new Acutue Trust proposals for the number of beds at West Cumberland Hospital have gone some way to reduce our concerns, we believe that it is essential not to implement any bed reductions in Acute or Community hospitals until replacement services are fully in place. The number of beds proposed in the original consultation document was not in our view adequate.

Fifthly we consider it most important that the issues raised during the consultation affecting stroke care and palliative care continue to be addressed.

Sixthly we are concerned that Millom and South Copeland to some extent fall between the areas affected by the "Closer to Home" consultation and the separate consultation for South Cumbria expected later this year, especially as regards trauma and emergency care. It is extremely important that the Millom and South Copeland area does not lose out as a result of this status.

Finally we believe that the financial model for the proposals will need to be very carefully monitored to ensure that it remains sustainable.

We welcome the constructive dialogue that community representatives have had with the PCT and acute trust over the past few months, and particularly in January, and look forward to working with them for better health care in Cumbria.

Cllr Chris Whiteside
Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for Copeland

"Closer to Home" consultation closes today

Today, Friday 1st February, is the final day of the "Closer to Home" consultation about Hospital and Health services in most of Cumbria.

I strongly encourage any resident who cares about local health services in West Cumbria (or North and Central Cumbria) and has not already taken the opportunity to feed your views back to the PCT to do so today.

You can still feed in your views to the PCT at www.closertohome.org.uk