Wednesday, September 21, 2016


The NHS Success Regime will be releasing a formal consultation document into healthcare in Cumbria next week. I am worried by the signals being sent about maternity.

Chairman Sir Neil McKay told a public meeting at Cockermouth Community Hospital on Tuesday:
“The future of maternity services at the West Cumberland Hospital has been discussed endlessly. We have real concerns about whether it's possible to maintain a consultant-led maternity service there.

“If our concerns are correct then we have to come up with other options. I would fail if I offered a service that was not sustainable.

“This is a complex set of issues, our thoughts are in the consultation document. The present position is a real worry and I understand how passionate people feel.”

That sounds like they are getting ready to abandon the fight for consultant-led maternity at WCH and although we must listen very seriously to what they say, I believe that this would be a huge mistake.

Don't forget that when independent national assessors visited Cumbria recently to look at the options for maternity care, they made a particular point of saying in their report that they had expected to recommend a centralised maternity unit for the county but when they saw for themselves what the position was really like in Cumbria - little matters like how long it takes to drive between places like Whitehaven and Carlisle or from Gosforth to Barrow - they changed their minds and recommended as Option One that consultant-led maternity care should be retained at all our major hospitals including WCH and FGH.

As with practically every NHS consultation I can ever remember (and I've been through an awful lot of them, from both sides of the table and in various parts of Britain hundreds of miles apart) the NHS is saying no decisions have been taken while campaigners are afraid that they already have. I'm not going to take sides on that point beyond pointing out the obvious:

If we don't like aspects of what is proposed and make a huge fuss about it there is a chance that the "success regime" and local NHS leaders will listen, but if we don't make a fuss you can be certain that they can't listen to what has not even been said.

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