Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital to continue for at least 12 months

After thousands of people took part in the consultation on the "success regime" proposals for hospital services in West, North and East Cumbria, and 91% of them wanted to keep consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH), the Clinical Commissioning Group meeting today granted a 12-moth stay of execution.

Consultant-led maternity will continue on a 24/7 basis for the next year, side by side with a midwife-led unit while the Trust will seek to improve recruitment and "test the viability" of the service.

The original preferred option by the Success Regime, Option 2, had been to get remove consultant-led maternity from WCH, with pregnant women needing consultant care forced to travel 40 miles to Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary.

A fresh recommendations presented to the CCG today have given a lifeline to maternity services.

However, while it has been agreed to retain consultant-led services, health chiefs have agreed it will be on a 12-month trial basis.

If, after that period, consultant-led services are "not proven to be deliverable or sustainable" then the unit will be closed in favour of a midwife-led unit.

To ensure a smooth transition should that happen, health chiefs have agreed to approve the creation of a maternity-led unit (MLU) in Whitehaven alongside the consultant service.

The decision could certainly have been worse - they could have gone ahead with the "Preferred option" - but I am not going to be popping the champagne corks about this.

Welcome though it is that the leadership of the NHS in Cumbria say they are going to look at recruitment and retention, it is not going to be as easy to persuade doctors, nurses and other key professionals to come and work for the NHS in Cumbria if the impression is created that the service could be downgraded in 12 months time.

I agree with Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie in a piece he has written for the Whitehaven News tomorrow that we need to campaign together to persuade potential recruits to the maternity and paediatric services in Cumbria that West Cumbria is a fantastic place to live, work and build a career.

It is also absolutely essential that the Trust give appropriate guarantees to potential recruits about their job security.

The campaign to protect services at West Cumbria's hospitals is far from over: it needs to enter a new phase. One which is positive but determined: we are going to make sure we keep our hospital services.

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