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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Give assurances or stop north Cumbria hospitals takeover - MP

A takeover of north Cumbria’s hospitals should be stopped unless bosses give urgent assurances about services, Copeland MP Jamie Reed has said.

Jamie Reed photo
Jamie Reed

Mr Reed has threatened to call on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to halt the whole process amid “growing public fears” about the future of the West Cumberland Hospital.

The troubled Whitehaven and Carlisle hospitals, in special measures, are set to be taken over by Northumbria Healthcare.

Bosses have been working behind the scenes to draw up plans for the future but to date they have not been made public.

However, leaked documents have revealed that a number of changes – including downgrading maternity services and the children’s ward – have been discussed.

Mr Reed is now insisting that “categoric clarity” is given to the public immediately about what services will be offered once the deal is complete.

He said: “Repeated requests for clarity and transparency from me and members of the public regarding future service provision at West Cumberland Hospital continue to go unanswered.”

The MP believes that the medical team at the hospital no longer supports the takeover of the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust – which runs West Cumberland Hospital and Cumberland Infirmary – by Northumbria chiefs.

Both hospitals are in the process of being taken over due to severe financial difficulties.

There are widespread concerns in the west Cumbrian community that the hospital could be stripped of its consultant-led maternity unit, then replaced with a midwifery-led unit. The children’s ward could become a “day hospital”, with children who need admitting having to go to Carlisle.

There are also fears Yewdale Ward could close, with mental health in-patient services instead focused at Carlisle, while more urgent care and acute medicine, including stroke care, could also move.

Growing concern from a Facebook campaign group has already led to a march through Whitehaven and the organisation of a public meeting later this month.

The MP said the takeover process was supposed to help ensure stability for the two hospitals – but that this “never materialised”.

Health bosses have said the hospital would have six operating theatres and carry out a lot of elective (planned) operations including cataracts, hernias, hip and knee replacements.

A spokeswoman for the North Cumbria Trust said: “We recognise that West Cumberland Hospital holds an important place in the hearts of many people living in west Cumbria and we are absolutely committed to providing services which are first and foremost safe and ones that will benefit local communities for many years to come, our commitment to this is demonstrated in the ongoing hospital development at Whitehaven.”

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