Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Contractor chosen to rebuild WCH

Tomorrow's Whitehaven News reports that Laing O'Rourke has won the contract for the rebuild/refurbishment of West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

Earlier this month I met NHS Trust CEO Carole Heatly with Cllr Yvonne Clarkson, chair of the Copeland council overview and scrutiny committee dealing with health. We had a constructive discussion about a number of issues, and one thing which Yvonne and I were keen to see was that the hospital project went forward as quickly as was compatible with due diligence and getting the rebuild right to deliver a safe and effective service. We were assured that progress was happening to achieve this this and this week's announcements backs up that statement. This his progress on assigning the contract is most welcome.

The Trust told Speaking exclusively to The Whitehaven News, health bosses announced that they have chosen construction giant Laing O’Rourke. The company has given an undertaking that the majority of the workforce needed for the £100million redevelopment will be sourced locally through its approved contractors and supply chain.

North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust said it would generate a significant boost to the local economy and contribute to the regeneration of West Cumbria. Carole Heatly said: “In selecting Laing O’Rourke, we have an understanding that they will use the local workforce as much as possible – this is good news especially in times of economic recession and should do much to strengthen the local economy of West Cumbria.”

It is expected that early preparatory work on the site will start before Christmas this year to allow for the major construction to begin in 2010. The hospital will include a new-build emergency care centre, new theatres, new outpatient area and new wards.

Laing O’Rourke is the largest privately-owned construction firm in the UK. It owes its own foundations to Cumbria where it was started by John Laing, in Cockermouth, in 1848. It was acquired by O’Rourke in 2001 and is said to be the premier health contractor nationwide with projects including the recent redevelopment of the Freeman and Royal Victoria Hospitals, in Newcastle.

The redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital will be a publicly-funded capital project and will not be through the Private Finance Initiative which was used to fund the construction of the Cumberland Infirmary.

Health chiefs say they are committed to three ‘givens’ – providing all the services as agreed following the Closer to Home consultation; providing a facility to ‘modernise, improve and deliver care to all patients in West Cumbria’ and to move the development forward quickly.

Mike Little, Trust chairman, said: “This major project will provide a new healthcare facility that will see great improvements for all our patients in West Cumbria along with providing a great boost to the local economy.”

Ms Heatly added: “This is an immensely exciting time for healthcare in West Cumbria. £100 million is a significant investment and the first significant investment into healthcare for West Cumbria in over half-a-century. Working closely with our clinical staff and stakeholders, we will develop a healthcare facility that will offer the best to our patients.”

The full report is on the Whitehaven News website here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cumbria LINk survey on WCH rebuild

Cumbria LINk is carrying out a survey into the views of local residents about the rebuild of West Cumberland Hospital.

They are asking


With regard to the existing design and layout of this hospital, they are asking residents to give details of three problems or issues (NOT including the well known parking issues)


They are asking residents to suggest up to three new facilities or services they would like to see provided in the rebuilt/refurbished hospital

c) Any other comments

They have asked for any other comments on the rebuilding of the hospital

Comments can be made via the Cumbria LINk website at

or via email to

or by post to

Cumbria LINk support team
27 Spencer Street
Carlisle CA1 1BE.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How not to deal with Swine Flu - or anything else

I was deeply concerned to read posts by the NHS Blog Doctor and Guido Fawkes about how inquiries about Paul Staines' daughter were dealt with by his local NHS when she developed a fever.

"Doctor Crippen" writes that

"I am ashamed to say that swine flu is being seen by some of my cynical colleagues as a perfect excuse with which to fob off a large number of patients."

As he points out, during the current fuss about swine flu, "other illnesses continue as normal. Children still get meningitis, and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get bacterial pneumonia and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get pyelonephritis (kidney infections) and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get acute appendicitis and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get acute leukaemia and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough."

Unfortunately the symptoms which small children present when they get ill can be very similar for a wide variety of illnesses, some minor, some presenting a risk of permanent injury, and some life-threatening. That's why we must avoid the trap of diagnosing over the phone that every child with a fever has swine flu, prescribing Tamiflu, and assuming that this will deal with it.

Otherwise as he points out, we will have a tragedy like this:

Mrs Jones phoned the GP/the hospital/the walk-in centre and was told over the telephone that her daughter, Mary, had swine flu. They left out a prescription for Tamiflu but Mary died the next day from meningococcal septicaemia.”

You can read the NHS blog doctor's comments in full here, and he expresses his disapproval of some of his NHS colleagues a lot more strongly than I have.