Friday, December 22, 2017

December meeting of the Copeland Health and Wellbeing Forum

Yesterday's meeting of the Copeland Health and Wellbeing Forum was held at Westlakes and consisted of a series of presentations about positive things which are happening to develop the Health Service in West Cumbria followed by a short tour of the facilities at the West Cumberland Medical Education Centre at Westlakes.

Discussions about the development of Health services in the area have not always been uniformly positive in the past but this meeting was brimming with details of ideas to improve learning and development opportunities for staff and services for patients.

We heard about some of the medical courses being run by UCLAN at Westlakes and West Cumberland Hospital, including the new "Physician Associate" qualification and the Master's programme. (You can identify Physician Associates if you see one at WCH because they wear smart and distinctive burgundy-coloured uniforms). There are some details of what's happening at Westlakes to help upskill our local NHS here.  

We also heard about some of the work being done at Westlakes to help the NHS make itself more patient friendly, addressing concerns like those in this YouTube video which we were shown:

(This is so true - problems like this certainly do need reform and it was really helpful to take part in a discussion addressing it.)

It was noted that the structure of the NHS has evolved over 70 years in a way which nobody would design if they sit down to set up a caring, rational and effective health service from scratch, and we need to make things simpler, clearer, more transparent and less constrained by geographical or structural organisational barriers.

There were also discussions on what is currently known as "Co-Production" which means working with the community to deliver healthcare - a better title for this would be "Working Together" - on local health priorities and on the very exciting work which is being done on the second and third stages of redevelopment at West Cumberland Hospital.

The most positive aspect of this is that with better facilities, more being done to develop skills, more thought to giving patients and staff alike a better experience, and that work being noticed and called out at a national level, medical staff think of West Cumbria as an exciting place to come and work, which is already helping with recruitment. We need to ensure that all these excellent ideas become reality so that staff morale improves, we retain the good staff we have, and the sustainability of the services which the community needs will be established beyond doubt.

I don't want to sound like I'm having an attack of unrealistic optimism here, because I recognise that putting forward good ideas is the easy bit, now we have to make sure they are properly funded and implemented to make them work and this is going to be an enormous challenge.

But at least yesterday we were hearing positive ideas and positive news.

Comparing the discussion I heard yesterday with the ones we were having at the time of the "success regime" consultation in 2016 represents a massive transformation for the better in just 12 months.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Initial Feedback from Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee 14th December 2017

The Health Scrutiny Committee met today in Carlisle to consider a very major list of important items affecting healthcare in Cumbria. There was a pre-meeting scheduled for 9.30am and the meeting itself ran from about 10.30am to about 4pm with a 45 minute break for lunch.

I'm not going to attempt to post a full record of the meeting this evening though I will try to put up some more details over the next few days but here are two or three particularly important points from the meeting.

1) Health Service provision for Deaf patients

There were presentations to the committee from Healthwatch Cumbria, the Cumbria Deaf Association, and a number of Deaf service users about the experiences of patients with hearing loss who needed to use NHS services in Cumbria.

Some of the stories we heard about the challenges faced by Deaf patients in Cumbria in communicating their needs and understanding what they were being told were extremely moving and raised a lot of important issues.

The Chief Operating Officer of the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, arriving a few minutes early for his own session with the committee, caught the tail end of those presentation and I was pleased that he volunteered an interest in learning about the rest of the issues the Deaf service users had raised before we had the chance to make the suggestion ourselves. The points raised will indeed be passed on, both to the CCG and to the Trusts. 

The CCG representatives were there to take the committee through a "Healthcare for the Future" update.

One particularly important point which was made, following the "Call-In" of maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital and the  Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) decision not to pursue a "full review" is that the policy of the NHS in Cumbria and the recommendation of the IRP is still to provide Consultant-led Maternity services at WCH and make it work.

The IRP agreed that the suggested twelve month timeframe which had been suggested to test the sustainability of retaining consultant-led maternity was, quote,

"potentially unrealistic and unhelpful if taken literally as  the deadline for a final decision. The intention must be to do everything possible to implement Option 1 and make it work."

I was not on the council or the committee at the time of the call-in but that is precisely the reason I would have voted for the call-in if I had been.

The CCG confirmed again today that they are indeed committed to making consultant-led maternity work, have made a lot of progress towards doing so, and also that they have not started the 12 month review of the sustainability of the service mentioned in the original decision. They will put forward a paper in February 2018 on what action it is proposed to take about any review, and will not start the clock on any review before that.

It was stressed that the CCG are not saying they will necessarily start a review in February, the CCG was saying that they will not start one before that.  As of today their policy is indeed to do everything possible to maintain Consultant-led maternity service at West Cumberland Hospital and make it work.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Cumbria Health Scrutiny meeting

Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee will be meeting on 14th December. There is a heavy and important agenda, for which details can be found at

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Local NHS starts new recruitment campaign

I am very pleased to see that the NHS trusts in Cumbria have started a new and more vigorous recruitment campaign, working with staff and local communities in a drive to attract health professionals to the area.
Two NHS Trusts, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust (NCUH) and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), are working together with local people to raise the profile of Cumbria and the career opportunities our area can offer.
Last month the Trusts asked the public to support them by sharing photos that show what they love about living and working in Cumbria. They received over 100 entries which will now be used to promote the area to health professionals – such as doctors and nurses.
Stephen Eames, chief executive at NCUH and CPFT, commented: “The response from the public has been fantastic. We know that our staff and local communities are passionate about our NHS and the place they call home, and that’s really come across. The range of photos we have received will help us show just how much we have to offer.”
The photos will be used as part of a new recruitment campaign for the two Trusts. The rural nature of many services in Cumbria provides unique opportunities in terms of development and learning for health professionals. Innovative ways of covering medical roles have been recognised nationally and provide training opportunities unique to the area for experienced clinicians. Advanced nursing roles have also been developed to address gaps in areas such as dementia care.

Amanda Dunkley of the North Cumbria Hospitals Trust explained: “Our new campaign looks different to anything we’ve done before and will help us stand out to job seekers. It describes the kind of people we’re looking for in a bold and fun way. We’re looking for innovators, experts, adventures, thrill seekers, explorers, team players… the list goes on. We want to show that we have something for everyone.

“We’ve had to think outside of the box to address our recruitment challenges and that has really paid off. We now have some very innovative roles that aren’t available elsewhere in the country. The development opportunities that we can offer health professionals make Cumbria a really strong choice.”

Many changes in health and care services in Cumbria mean there is a greater focus on partnership working and doing things differently to improve patient care. Linda Bennetts, associate director of nursing for mental health at CPFT, said:

“It’s a really exciting time to join us and make a difference. We’re working with the wider health and care system to provide more seamless patient care through Integrated Care Communities or ICCs. As part of this we’ll soon be recruiting to a number of health and care posts that will focus on preventing ill health, empowering people to take care of their wellbeing and keeping people out of hospital.”

The latest recruitment activity builds on work that is already underway. A recent recruitment video showcasing Cumbria has attracted interest and a nursing careers fair in November resulted in 25 job offers to nurses in the area.
All NHS jobs in Cumbria are advertised on