Thursday, November 02, 2017

£46 million new look for West Cumberland Hospital

Plans showing how West Cumberland Hospital will look after another £46 million of investment have been unveiled this week.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health announced that north, west and east Cumbria was in line for up to £100m of investment, including completion of the WCH refurbishment & rebuild project, and a new cancer centre at Carlisle.

Cumbria's NHS organisations have since been working on detailed business cases, which will determine exactly how much money is released..

Designs and information about the current plans for the West Cumberland Hospital scheme have now been released and can be seen in today's Whitehaven News and on the Times and Star website here. It is estimated that this scheme will involve £46 million of further new investment in West Cumberland hospital above and beyond the extensive building programme which opened in 2015.

Cumbria NHS leaders say the completed hospital will be the first of its kind nationally, becoming an "exemplar" for the wider NHS.

The next stage of investment in WCH, Phase two of the overall scheme, estimated to cost £33m, will include renal, chemotherapy, therapies, pre-assessment, consultant-led maternity (obstetrics), gynaecology, a midwife-led maternity unit and office space.

Phase three will create a new build academic campus, in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), at an estimated costof  £13m.

West Cumbrian GP John Howarth, who is joint deputy chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said that after  years of community concern about the future of the hospital, which was in special measures and undergoing a major review of services, things are now changing for the better.

Dr Howarth added that the investment shows national confidence in the West Cumberland Hospital and that the newly-revamped hospital will be a real asset to the area, while the addition of the medical school will help solve long-standing recruitment problems for the long term.

“It’s really exciting. The important message is that we have two new phases of investment coming to the West Cumberland Hospital."

“We (north, west and east Cumbria) have got more than a quarter of all the national capital available to the NHS," he said.

“That shows a real transformation in national confidence. We have a rapidly evolving health system, which has given the confidence to significantly invest in us."

Once approved, it is expected that work will start on phases two and three late next year, to be complete by 2020. These two  phases will run alongside each other.

Dr Howarth stressed that it is not just about the physical buildings, but part of a unique wider plan.

“We are looking at how we make the West Cumberland Hospital the hub of an integrated care system, for Copeland and Allerdale, connecting the acute hospital with all of its services with primary care and community services," he said.

Dr Howarth added that the NHS in Cumbria is leading the way nationally on what he calls “population health”.

“What we have to begin to do is go beyond just delivering services, to have an ambition of improving overall health of the population.

“We therefore want to design a hospital that goes beyond delivering services, but contributes to the wider health and wellbeing of the communities it serves," he explained.

He stressed that Cumbria's NHS trusts are still committed to bed-based care where appropriate, with phase two providing top of the range facilities for patients who need acute care.

Dr Howarth, who is also a professor of primary care at Uclan medical school, believes that the new teaching facilities will also make a major contribution to tackling recruitment and retention problems, where possible recruiting students from Cumbrian schools who want to train and stay to practice in the area.

"I'm really optimistic. These courses are very attractive to students. One of the historic weaknesses we have had, particularly in west Cumbria, is that we have not had our own medical students,"

he said.

“Having our own campus in Whitehaven, for me as a doctor, is game-changing. It will take some years to really have an impact but in the medium to long term it will change our ability to train and retain our own doctors. For me, as a local doctor who has worked all my career here, it’s the most exciting development of that time."

Dr Howarth said overall he feels very positive about the future of the West Cumberland Hospital.

"My first job in the NHS was at the West Cumberland Hospital, in 1983, so this is fantastic to see," he said.

"I think we are going to end up with one of the best facilities in the country, here in west Cumbria.

"Our ambitions for the West Cumberland Hospital are unique. We want to go further than other places have gone.

"There will obviously be bigger hospitals in the country, but as a hospital within a fully integrated health and care system - nobody else has done that. West Cumbria is going to be a national exemplar."

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, added: “The new development plans for West Cumberland Hospital which includes a health village and education facility is exciting news and a positive step in the right direction to implementing a fully integrated health and care system.”


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