Friday, October 27, 2006

Save our hospital - now the acute trust comments

It is increasingly clear that there is indeed a serious threat to local hospital services in West Cumbria and we need to start campaigning NOW if we want to keep the service we need.

Two further developments in respect of the future of hospital services in West Cumbria.

The Chief Executive of the Nuclear Decomissioning Authority Dr Ian Roxburgh, has spoken in the strongest possible terms about the need to retain an acute hospital in West Cumbria. As he rightly points out, it would be totally unacceptable if the nearest acute hospital to the Sellafield site were in Carlisle. In his words the need for the hospital is "absolutely fundamental" and he added that he has arranged for a presentation from the trust to the NDA board.

Meanwhile the Acute Services NHS trust and PCT still maintain that they will "provide a new hospital in West Cumbria."

Marie Burnham, chief executive of the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, made the following joint statement with Alan Horne, chief operating officer of the new Cumbria Primary Care Trust.

“Cumbria Primary Care Trust is looking to develop a whole system solution to the delivery of healthcare across Cumbria which is both clinically sustainable and financially affordable.

“The Gibson, Freake and Edge report was commissioned to look at and examine any implications of developing and modernising healthcare under this whole system solution process given the rurality of Cumbria.

“North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has always maintained it will provide a new hospital in West Cumbria and is currently developing proposals for this within the context of the whole system solution. Full public and staff consultation will be carried out during this process.”

This statement sounds at first very reassuring, but "A new hospital" without the words "acute" or "District General" is in fact potentially compatible with any of the three options in the Gibson, Freake and Edge report, which were

Option 1: Status Quo (ie continue as at the moment with two district general hospitals – the West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle). But this is said to be unaffordable.

Option 2: One acute hospital for the whole of North Cumbria with community support and some “pick and mix” services. This is said to be affordable.

Option 3: One acute hospital with a smaller hospital unit and community support. This is also said to be affordable.

Like Dr Roxborough, I am completely convinced that any option which does not include an acute hospital in West Cumbria, preferably no further north than Whitehaven, is totally unacceptable. Since the trusts have acknowledged the existence of the Gibson, Freake and Edge report, and have not denied the story of what options it contains, we can take it that the report given to the local press was accurate.

It is equally clear both that this report is not yet Trust policy, but the possibility that it may become the policy of the trust cannot be ruled out. The people of West Cumbria need to start campaigning now to ensure this does not happen.

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