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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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North Cumbria's hospitals cancel non-urgent operations

Non-urgent operations are being cancelled at both of north Cumbria’s hospitals.

Staff at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle also claim patients have had to wait 12 hours to be seen at its accident & emergency unit.

Any elective surgery – including day cases – was put on hold at the infirmary on Tuesday, the same day it emerged that the hospital trust’s finances had taken a “significant deterioration”.

It was later revealed that some non-urgent elective surgery had also been cancelled at the West Cumberland Hospital, in Whitehaven. A staff member at the Cumberland Infirmary, who asked not to be named, told the News & Star that the accident & emergency department has seen an “unprecedented” number of patients.

“They declared an internal incident,” she revealed, “the like of which has never been seen at the new build, or possibly even the old one. We’ve been told all non-urgent elective surgery has been cancelled – and it is likely to be in effect until the end of the week.

“On Tuesday there were lots of people waiting in A&E for 12 hours to be treated and they held a ‘crisis’ meeting simply to try to get the hospital emptied.”

She added: “This is not a seasonal thing like flu or norovirus, it seems to be an ongoing issue.”

The woman said that while management appeared to be taking action to resolve issues, it highlighted the “mess” the trust was in. “It is frustrating,” she explained, “because the new management are doing quite a lot to change things, but I think they are only just realising what they have taken on.”

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said it could not comment on the time people had to wait, as that data was not currently available. However, she refuted rumours that some patients had been transferred elsewhere for treatment, and reassured residents that all emergency surgery and cancer surgery was still being carried out at both hospitals.

Mike Walker, medical director at the trust, said: “There were over 50 admissions [to the infirmary] on Sunday evening; 70 admissions on Monday evening; and over 50 on Tuesday. West Cumberland Hospital has also been very busy.

“We treated this as an internal incident in order to appropriately organise and mobilise the clinical, nursing and support staff needed to ensure patients were safe. Things are now settling down.”

He said the trust had worked closely with the North West Ambulance Service, the Clinical Commissioning Groups, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (community services) and NHS Cumbria and Social Services.

“Their support was invaluable to ensure patients were appropriately cared for and their needs met,” Mr Walker continued. “We also took the decision to cancel non-urgent elective patients, including day cases, and this is being reviewed on a twice daily basis.

“We have opened an extra 25 beds at the Cumberland Infirmary to efficiently manage the flow of patients through the hospitals.

“We apologise to those patients whose elective procedure has been delayed and we will endeavour to provide them with the next available appointment.”

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing said: “We want to see a full and transparent investigation into what has happened.

“Both the public, and staff at the trust, have a right to know the background to what has prompted this suspension.”

He added: “Also, it’s important to remember that the knock-on effect of suspending services on this scale has significant consequences for all those patients who were expecting treatment, but the onus must be on delivering a safe, high quality service.”

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