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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Health village dream revealed

HEALTH cluster programme is at the heart of the economic rejuvenation of West Cumbria.

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FOCAL POINT: West Cumberland Hospital MIKE McKENZIE

The phrase “health cluster” has been coined to describe a development of health, education, social care and nuclear services and is a slogan West Lakes Renaissance intends to make a household name.

The vision is to form a cluster of health-related facilities centred around the new West Cumberland Hospital.

This new health village and the campus around the site would not just see an expansion in healthcare but also academic research, education, medical technology and links to nuclear expertise.

Where the cluster spreads beyond the hospital development is where West Lakes Renaissance will be more involved.

This new future for West Cumbria will demand collaborative working relationships with educational institutions, the nuclear industry, local authority councils, other public sector bodies and the private sector.

Ann-Marie Cowperthwaite, health cluster programme manager and senior project manager for West Lakes Renaissance, is investigating how West Cumbria can meet that challenge.

The health cluster programme launched with a workshop in July, was attended by Labour MP for Copeland Jamie Reed, and representatives from four universities (Dalton Nuclear Institute (The University of Manchester ), the University of Cumbria, Lancaster University and UCLan), the Energus campus at Lillyhall, North Cumbria acute trust, Allerdale and Copeland councils, nuclear partners and the private sector.

“Everybody linked into those aspects came to it so we could identify where they wanted it to go, what they wanted to incorporate in it and identify the strands of how it can come together,” explains Ann-Marie.

“It’s a sort of linking between a lot of public sector companies as well as the private sector.

“The main reason why we’re interested in the cluster is outside investment opportunities, getting people to take notice of the opportunities and availability of skills we’ve got here.”

The workshop has given Ann-Marie a strong research base upon which to build, but she stresses that such an ambitious plan will require a 10 to 12-year timescale.

“We’re working on the programme at the moment. It’s still in its initial stages but we’re hoping by Christmas to have an early idea,” says Ann-Marie.

“It will take a good year to work out what’s going to happen.

“The cluster is not saying ‘we’re going to build a science project here’ – we’re trying to utilise what’s available. “Maybe the Westlakes Science Park becomes the place for research.

“It’s making more use of the facilities we’ve got already and deciding we still need a bit more of this and that and where is the best place people can provide that information and where will it be located?

“Is it in the science park or is it in the hospital or in Sellafield?

“That’s why it’s a cluster. Lillyhall is also going to have a major impact because of the training opportunities that are there.

“Rather than completely rebuilding everything, we need to make sure we’re making the best use of the facilities we’ve got.”

This non-prescriptive approach should ensure a wide-ranging blueprint for the future of West Cumbria’s health cluster.

“It’s unique to Cumbria but we’re not going to invent the wheel,” adds Ann-Marie.

“There are various places across the country and across the world which have done bits of things we could learn from.

“We’ve spoken to people in the States who have got synergy with energy and waste, and spoken to people in London who have linked to different hospitals.

“We’re trying to take best examples from lots of areas.”

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