Retired consultant hits back at comments over Cumbria hospital trauma services
A retired consultant has hit back at comments about the quality of trauma services at the West Cumberland hospital before they moved to Carlisle.
Respected surgeon Mahesh Dhebar was clinical director of orthopedics and trauma in Whitehaven until 2011 and continued to work in the department until 2013.
Later that year North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust took the decision to remove urgent trauma services to the Cumberland Infirmary temporarily on safety grounds. Local NHS bosses have now made the move permanent, though they have promised to return some simple procedures to Whitehaven.
But Mr Dhebar and members of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital campaign group are concerned it is only a “token”, once a week, service.
David MacKay, a consultant orthopedic surgeon at the trust, stepped in to defend the current position, saying they are doing as much as is “safe and sustainable”.
But Mr Dhebar has taken issue with some of his comments, particularly relating to the safety and quality of the service prior to the move.
Mr Mackay described the previous service as “failing”, saying he would not go as far as to label it unsafe but quality was not as good as it could be, partly due to staffing. He insisted that outcomes have improved, and that they have data to prove it.
But Mr Dhebar has accused the trust of “creative statistical analysis”, claiming the way data is recorded has improved, rather than actual outcomes - something which the trust strongly denies.
“Services were safe in Whitehaven. There were no real problems, but they wanted to transfer it to Carlisle,” claimed Mr Dhebar.
He also took issue with Mr Mackay’s comments that nationally no trusts were running trauma services across two sites, and that duplicating resources was a “waste of money”.
Mr Dhebar said that is not the case, as there are trauma services at neighbouring Furness General in Barrow and also in Lancaster.
He added that the huge distance between Whitehaven and Carlisle makes west Cumbria a special case, as is the case with maternity and other services.
“North Cumbria is the only trust in England with two hospitals 40-plus miles apart.
“He is trying to confuse major trauma with simple trauma. Simple trauma is provided in many smaller hospitals across the country,” said Mr Dhebar, who added that major incidents such as the 2010 shootings have proven the need for these services.
“Even after recent tragedy, decision makers still think money is more important than a patient’s safety. Healthcare should be provided because there is a need for it. West Cumbria should not be any different.”
Mr Dhebar is calling on bosses to return all single limb trauma surgery, such as broken ankles and legs, to Whitehaven, saying staffing shouldn’t be an issue as consultants can travel between sites, instead of patients.
But Stephen Eames, chief executive at the North Cumbria trust, insisted there have been definite improvements since the service moved.
“The service changes made with regards to emergency complex surgery in 2013 have undoubtedly proved to be beneficial for patients across west, north and east Cumbria with mortality rates now in the ‘as expected’ range.
“The trust is absolutely committed to fully utilising the new theatre facilities in West Cumberland Hospital and we will be opening an additional operating theatre later this month. We made it clear during the public consultation that we would be increasing the amount and range of surgery provided in West Cumbria and the teams are committed to making it happen.”