Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Future of A&E at West Cumberland

Only a few days ago the magnificent new £90 million West Cumberland hospital buildings at Whitehaven were opened to treat their first patients.

Also within the last few weeks the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, visited  the area and told the local NHS trusts that we need to ensure that acute services including Accident and Emergency continue to be offered at West Cumbria.

Nobody wants to close Accident and Emergency at West Cumberland Hospital.

Without wanting to blame the Whitehaven News - they were given a story and I understand why they felt they had to print it - the suggestion in today's paper that Accident and Emergency might be downgraded to a minor injuries unit next year is most unfortunate, not least because the only way it would happen would be if this became a self-fulfilling prophecy as such fears made it harder to recruit and retain skilled staff, particularly doctors, nurses and technicians.

Morale, recruitment and retention are the biggest single problem in the first place and it would be utterly ridiculous if we ended up losing a service which the community needs and the NHS wants to provide not because there was any fundamental reason to remove it but because people didn't believe it could be kept.

So we need a more positive attitude from the trust.

The government wants to keep acute services in West Cumbria

The NHS Chief Executive wants to keep acute services in West Cumbria

The public demand that we keep acute services in West Cumbria

We must make sure those services are kept and are safe and sustainable. The alternatives are simply not acceptable.

Yes, we need to make sure those services are of a world class standard and to do that we need to recruit and retain people.

Well, the best way to make this easier would be for the Trust to make it absolutely clear that they are 100% committed to retaining Accident and Emergency and a wide range of other acute services at West Cumberland Hospital.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, Trust medical director, told the Whitehaven News that: "The trust board very much supports a safe and viable service for the long-term future at West Cumberland Hospital."

He also said

"We are doing all we can to recruit to key vacancies including our innovative partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)."

Stop there, Jeremy. Talk about the positives. Make them happen.

I know perfectly well that what I have written above is easier to say than it is to do.

But we need those services and to make sure they are kept requires a relentlessly positive approach. Think about the negatives only as a means of making sure they don't become reality.

The Whitehaven News report referred to in this article is available online at


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