A GROUP of 40 Cumbrian GPs and practice staff have signed a strongly worded letter opposing cuts to local health services.
It is a strong sign of the level of opposition that is mounting across the community, not just from residents but also medical staff.
Those signing the letter including long-serving family doctors, GP registrars, practice managers and practice nursess.
The group – who work in surgeries across the Whitehaven, Workington, Cockermouth, Egremont, Distington, Maryport and Keswick area – use their letter to outline their concerns about the safety of the Success Regime’s proposals, which would see west Cumbrian services cut.
The letter says: “We believe the proposals regarding maternity and paediatric provision–downgrading the obstetric department at West Cumberland Hospital to a standalone Midwife Led Unit, removing the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) and downgrading paediatrics to a short stay assessment unit–are unsafe.”
Concerns include “unacceptably long transfer times” for labouring women – who would have to travel to Carlisle to reach a consultant. They say this: “will result in the deaths or serious damage of mothers and babies”.
They also claim the evidence put forward to support the proposals is “weak, unclear and has been drawn from incomparable situations”.
They are also concerned about the impact of losing west Cumbria’s Special Care Baby Unit, forcing families to travel long distances leading to issues with bonding, family separation and stress.
Bosses say that downgrading the Whitehaven maternity unit is not about money, but being able to safely staff it. However the GP group disputes this, saying: “In actual fact, the department will be fully staffed at both consultant and junior doctor level from February 2017.”
They add that at present it is not uncommon for the Carlisle maternity and paediatrics units to be full, meaning patients are transferred to Whitehaven - yet there is no detail about how the Cumberland Infirmary would cope with a huge increase in the number of patients.
The letter adds: “We have a duty, as doctors, to do the best for our patients. What we fear is that the Success Regime is not giving west Cumbria the due thought and care that it – and its people – deserve.”
Although the Government-appointed Success Regime has drawn up the Healthcare for the future options, NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group – a GP-led body – is responsible for the consultation.
It will then be up to its governing body to decide whether the options put forward should be accepted. As part of this, members must take into account all of the feedback received as part of the consultation - including the concerns of local medical staff and the public.
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