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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Battle for West Cumberland Hospital services stepped up

The fight to retain services at west Cumbria’s main hospital has stepped up as protesters plan a dedicated day of action.

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Siobhan Gearing: Inviting health chiefs to meeting

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Whitehaven last month to show their solidarity in calling for all of the services currently provided at the hospital to remain on the site, with nothing transferred to Carlisle or the North East.

Now a second, bigger event is being planned so people can voice their feelings and sign petitions.

Tens of thousands of leaflets are also set to be posted through people’s doors in the next few days, explaining the threats to the hospital. Campaigners are also calling on health bosses to be up front with them by holding a public meeting.

The Campaigning for a Safer West Cumberland Hospital group, headed by mum-of-two Siobhan Gearing, is gathering momentum.

Around 13,000 people have so far signed petitions resisting any changes to the current set-up at the Hensingham hospital.

And the next step is to hold a Stand Up For Our Services Day at Whitehaven’s Castle Park later this month, or early next.

Mrs Gearing promised the event would be a success and is expecting hundreds to attend.

“They [the hospital trust] are not listening to us so we need to show them that the fight is not over,” said Mrs Gearing. “More people are now aware of what’s going on and feel strongly about the issue and this is going to be a big event.”

The committee will meet tonight to set a date for the event, but Mrs Gearing said they hoped to either hold it at the end of the month, or some time in September.

And they are also pressing for a public meeting with the North Cumbria University Hospitals trust.

Michelle Hodgson went to last month’s march with her six-year-old son and has vowed to show her support once again.

“I’m very passionate about this issue,” said the 36-year-old from Lowca. “My mam had her last moments in that hospital and I lived there in her last days when she was dying of cancer. Imagine if they were to move that service elsewhere?”

Emotions are currently running high in west Cumbria after leaked reports revealed discussions have taken place about the possibility of downgrading Whitehaven’s maternity service to a midwife-led unit only.

This could mean women deemed “low-risk” could give birth in Whitehaven but those considered high-risk – or who may become high-risk at any stage – would have to travel 40 miles in an ambulance to deliver in Carlisle.

A spokesperson for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have recently spoken with Siobhan Gearing and are committed to continuing to engage with the local community.

“The trust is currently working closely with NHS Cumbria CCG and other partners on the collective development of the five-year strategic plan which is still being finalised and will help address the well documented issues we face. People should be absolutely reassured that any proposed permanent changes would require full public consultation led by NHS Cumbria CCG.”

Hospital chiefs insist the reports are discussion documents only, as part of a wider review of all north Cumbrian health services.

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