Sunday, February 05, 2017

Healthcare in West Cumbria - what are the real issues?

We still await the publication of the "Success Regime" proposals for healthcare in West, North and East Cumbria following the consultation last year.

The consultation closed on 19th December and the Success regime stated at that time that

"The public feedback is being analysed independently by The Campaign Company, and a report is expected in early February. Work will also be carried out to assess any alternative options suggested by members of the public and community groups. Local clinicians and regional specialists also will be involved in that process.

Health leaders from across the system and NHS Cumbria CCG’s Governing Body will also spend time considering the public feedback from the consultation process.

It is expected NHS Cumbria CCG’s Governing Body will make a decision in early March, ahead of the local government elections in May."

You can still read the consultation document at

Since the number of "alternative facts" (that seems to be the new way of describing false statements) being circulated during the Copeland by-election is quite unprecedented, particularly a large number of highly misleading statements by the Labour party, it is worth reiterating what is and is not actually proposed.

1) There IS a threat to consultant-led maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital

Although it is quite clear that almost nobody in West Cumbria agrees with them - certainly not ANY of the local political parties, nor any of the candidates in the election, not the local doctors, not the local midwives and not the public - the Success Regime appear to still think there is a "clinical consensus" to take away consultant-led maternity from WCH.

This view appears to have been formed by listening to the doctors based at Carlisle and ignoring those based in West Cumbria. I cannot understand how anyone who is paying attention to what the doctors based at West Cumberland Hospital say could think that there is any sort of clinical consensus for the Success Regime's preferred option in the recent consultation.

If the Success Regime stick to their guns when they publish their proposals, then whoever wins the Copeland By-Election will have to lead a campaign to save consultant-led maternity at WCH.

There is no doubt in my mind that all the candidates would do this. The question which then becomes pertinent is which candidate would have most influence over the government in fighting to save our maternity services. Here is a clue: I don't think it is the one who has been attacking the Prime Minister and misrepresenting her views.

2) There IS a threat to children's services

At least for maternity services the "Option one" proposal is acceptable, though the Success regime has a preferred option (e.g. option two) which would not be.

However for children's services none of the options look palatable and all of them would downgrade the service. This definitely will need to be challenged.

3) However, NOBODY is planning to close Accident and Emergency at WCH

Contrary to the misleading propaganda being put round by certain candidates and parties in the current by-election, particularly the Labour party, nobody is proposing to close the Accident and Emergency department at West Cumberland Hospital.

The preferred option put forward by the Success Regime would maintain 24 hour cover in the Accident and Emergency department at WCH. I don't know of anyone at all who supports the options in the consultation which would not do so.

Under the "preferred option" proposals there would be a 24/7 A&E at West Cumberland Hospital along with acute medical inpatient services and rehabilitation. There would also be an intensive care unit although some of the most seriously ill patients would be transferred to Carlisle if it was felt they would benefit from the extra support available there.

There is a proposal to develop a specialist Stroke centre at Carlisle, but anyone in West Cumbria who suffered a stroke and needed emergency care would receive it from the Accident and Emergency department at WCH first, although they might then be transferred to Carlisle when stabilised.

4) It is proposed to INCREASE the number of beds at Keswick, not cut them

Some election material is being circulated by certain parties suggesting that it is planned to remove inpatient beds from the Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick.

In fact the Success Regime's preferred option for Community Hospitals and two of the other three options would increase the number of beds at Keswick from 12 to 16. I am not aware that anyone is supporting the option which would remove beds from Keswick - the "Success Regime" certainly isn't and none of the political parties or candidates in the by-election support that option.

There are plenty of serious issues affecting local hospitals in West Cumbria. What a shame that certain politicians seem determined to mislead and scare people by making up extra threats on top of the real ones.

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