Thursday, December 14, 2017

Initial feedback from today's Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee

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.

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