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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Change necessary if West Cumberland Hospital to improve

Patients in west Cumbria have been warned change is vital if the failing Whitehaven hospital is to improve.

Jeremy Rushmer photo
Jeremy Rushmer

Medical director Jeremy Rushmer said stroke services were among those that may need to move to Carlisle in order to become safer.

But he said they were also committed to developing other services at the Hensingham site and urged the public not to fear the word “change”.

His comments follow the announcement that North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Whitehaven and Carlisle hospitals, will remain in special measures. It follows a detailed inspection which flagged up concerns about staffing levels, bed shortages, pressures in A&E, delayed and cancelled appointments and staff being fearful of management.

The trust, now rated as ‘requiring improvement’, must demonstrate it is addressing all of the issues within the next few months.

But to do this, Dr Rushmer said they have to ensure the hospitals are delivering safe and sustainable care.

The trust, led by NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is now drawing up a five-year plan, reviewing all of the services it delivers.

He said high risk medical pathways, such as stroke care, are part of the focus.

“It’s something we need to improve. It’s our belief that it’s hard to provide acute stroke services with only two consultants who also do general medicine on call,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean to say if you have a stroke you will be looked after in that location for all of your care but for the bit where you need acute interventions we are considering doing the same as we did with high risk surgery and consolidate on this site (Carlisle).”

But he added that they are reviewing all services at both hospitals, everything from maternity and obstetrics – an area where inspectors had safety concerns – right through to paediatrics.

Ultimately, they would be led by the CCG, he added, and stressed that the public would have a chance to comment on any changes.

“It’s all being considered but no decisions have been taken,” he said.

Workington MP Tony Cunningham is concerned that without investment to address serious staffing issues, services will be cut for the wrong reasons.

“There must be no dissemination of services at the West Cumberland Hospital – otherwise it’s a downward spiral,” he said.

He added that moving high risk surgery from Whitehaven had caused more problems than it had solved – resulting in bed shortages in Carlisle.

Dr Rushmer disagreed, saying that death rates had dropped since they took that decision.

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