Friday, 27 November 2015

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More operations in Whitehaven as Carlisle hospital struggles

More planned surgery will be carried out in Whitehaven as pressures grow in Carlisle – where the number of cancelled operations is “unacceptably high”.

West Cumberland Hospital photo

The Cumberland Infirmary is struggling with a surge in emergency admissions.

This is in turn hitting bed availability, and causing operations to be cancelled.

On top of this, the hospitals are £1.2m behind budget because the expected income for these operations has not come through as planned.

Bosses are therefore looking to further increase the number of operations taking place at the West Cumberland Hospital – which they say could become a “centre of excellence” for planned surgery.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is currently struggling to hit its 18-week waiting target in several areas, including orthopedics, ophthalmology, gynaecology and ear, nose and throat.

Meanwhile the hospitals are under increasing pressure as more patients than expected come through A&E or are admitted urgently.

Chief executive Ann Farrar now wants to ask commissioners for more money to offset the impact on budgets and help them get waiting lists in the area back on track.

She told the trust board: “I think this would be reasonable given there has been an increase in A&E and non elective admissions, to help us with 18 weeks.

“For the first time we are starting to hear the increase in A&E isn’t just in the local patch. It’s a national phenomenon. We need an active discussion with commissioners along those lines.”

Medical director Jeremy Rushmer said he was incredibly disappointed to see so many cancelled operations, and the loss of a significant amount of income as a result. And he said the vast majority of these cancellations were at the Carlisle infirmary.

He believes the solution now lies in Whitehaven.

“The position at West Cumberland Hospital seems to be a lot better now than it is at Cumberland Infirmary. If you go to West Cumberland you get a much better chance of getting your surgery done. It seems to me to be a no-brainer to use the capacity we have down there,” he said.

He added that in future it should also be the norm that all doctors work across both sites, to ensure the two hospitals are working together.

Chief operating officer Helen Ray also told the board that bed availability was being affected by a rise in patients staying longer than 30 days.

She said they were working with community health staff to try and resolve the problem.

Mrs Farrar hopes the pressures they face will be addressed by the five-year plan being drawn up by health trusts in Cumbria.

This aims to ensure services work together for the good of patients and make the most of the finances available.


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