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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Junior doctors pulled out of Cumbrian hospital amid supervision concerns

Junior doctors have been pulled out of Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital amid ongoing concerns about supervision and staffing shortages.

Jeremy Rushmer photo
Jeremy Rushmer

The three junior doctors are being removed because the hospital, which is struggling to recruit consultants, cannot properly train them.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed, who fears the remaining three junior doctors may also be removed at the beginning of August, is concerned about how this will impact on patient services.

Meanwhile, nurse shortages are continuing to cause bosses “serious concern”.

The North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the West Cumberland Hospital and Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary, confirmed the news yesterday.

It says Health Education North East (HENE), which supplies the trainees, said core medical training was being put at risk due to a consultant shortage, following three recent resignations.

As a result three junior doctors have been sent to complete their training elsewhere. There is a risk the remaining three could also be pulled out if the situation, now under weekly review, does not improve.

Mr Reed, who is also Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, warned that if the situation is not addressed immediately, it could hit the delivery of hospital services across north Cumbria.

“The staff in our hospitals are working incredibly hard to provide the best service to patients they possibly can. Short-staffing remains a huge problem and is affecting patient care,” he said.

Mr Reed said he is continuing to press Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to take action to resolve the growing problems in north Cumbria.

Speaking after the announcement, the hospital trust’s medical director, Jeremy Rushmer, stressed that junior doctors are “absolutely vital” to consultants.

He told the News & Star that the first three trainees had been removed because “clinical supervision could no longer be fully delivered”.

He added that support is being provided to the remaining three but the HENE is keeping the situation “under close review”.

There is a 25 per cent vacancy rate in consultant posts, the equivalent of 50 people, meaning the trust is relying heavily on locums. However, bosses say they are about to launch a national recruitment drive.

It is not just consultant posts that are proving difficult to fill, with nurse vacancies in west Cumbria also causing “serious concern”.

At yesterday’s board meeting, bosses said nursing gaps at the hospital were so serious they needed daily monitoring.

The board heard that in January and February intensive care, critical care, as well as the Overwater, Jenkin and Pillar/Patterdale wards, fell below the target for qualified cover. Shortfalls were filled by interim agency nurses.

Chris Platton, acting director of nursing, said: “We have a higher vacancy rate at West Cumberland Hospital which is a serious concern, so daily monitoring and support at senior level is in place.

The trust said it was continuing to recruit, with 30 overseas nurses joining this August as well as newly-qualified nurses in September.

She added: “Our staff are delivering safe care but it requires significant effort and commitment.”

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