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Not enough progress made at north Cumbria's hospitals

An inspection of north Cumbria's hospitals has revealed a catalogue of concerns, including safety issues caused by staff shortages.

Cumberland Infirmary photo
Cumberland Infirmary

A new report, unveiled today by the chief inspector of hospitals, confirms that Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary and Whitehaven's West Cumberland Hospital are to remain in special measures until the issues are addressed.

The North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust was one of 11 nationally to be given the failing status in July last year.

It followed concerns about higher than expected death rates and care standards, prompting Sir Bruce Keogh to launch a review.

Inspectors have now been back to revisit the hospitals and ruled that not enough progress has been made.

Both the Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals are now rated as 'requiring improvement', though the Penrith Birthing Centre is rated 'good'.

Issues include staff shortages, bed pressures and delayed or cancelled appointments.

The trust needs to up its game in several areas, including safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and leadership.

It was, however, rated good for caring, with staff praised by chief inspector Professor Sir Mike Richards for their "compassion and support" for patients.

The trust has been told it must make improvements in a number of areas, with staffing levels to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Only once progress can be demonstrated on all of the requirements will the hospitals be taken out of special measures.

Prof Richards said: "I recognise that North Cumbria has been working hard over the last year to make improvements. While we did see some signs of this improvement when we inspected, the trust still has a long way to go before it reaches the required standard."

See today's News & Star for an in-depth report about the findings and reaction

Have your say

Firstly the maternity unit at west cumberland whitehaven is closing after hearing it first hand off a consultant by the end of the year plus other departments they are keeping quiet about, and secondly why are its facilities closing i strongly suggest the county bucks up its attitude we live on the door step of a major nuclear plant,with another being built shortly,in the event of a disaster however slim it is criminal to disregard this as if anything major occurs we have no facilities available within 50 miles in either direction,now that is what i call a national discrace and the people of cumbria left to get on with it in the event,what a nightmare scenario that would be mass casualties an no hospitals,what a wonderfull legacy we have in front of us.All for the sake of sending budgeted money to the north east who have taken over the trust.

Posted by James O on 22 July 2014 at 17:09

I can understand, Sam, how you feel. There is big vacuum of information, trust Managers, on news media talk about improving mortality rate (Death), and yes it has improved.

They do not want to talk about morbidity, complication, cancelled operations, delay in transport etc

Question is why mortality rate (Death) is more in north Cumbria.

One need to ask this question, why is it, the hospitals which was providing good and safe care of national standard, only two or three years ago, suddenly becomes unsafe,

What has triggered, transfer of clinical services to CIC.

One of the reason was, and still is, that WCH has been, starved of all the expertise of human resources, where young, dedicated and energetic doctors, who were happy to, continue to work at WCH has decided to leave, because they did not see any prospect of vibrant, friendly, functional District General Hospital, which they came in to work in first place, and they are in turn, replaced by very expensive locum( Temporary Staff) with variable expertise, with no local knowledge or loyalty to the hospital. And Old brigade like me, retired, and not replaced.

Another reason is, that equipment and physical infrastructure failure, WCH had to
Close operation theaters more than once. And all those equipment has not been replaced. It is easy for managers to say that services are not safe at WCH, rather than to admit, that there are problems with infrastructure and human resources, difficulty in retention and recruitment of health care staff.

I am not surprised, that staff members at CIC are also under pressure. There is no capacity at CIC to provide emergency health care for whole of North Cumbria. New CIC after PFI was built, which is even smaller than old CIC.

Some thing has to give, so what happening, now is that, doctors, nurses, carers, , everyone – who work for the North Cumbria hospital are frustrated, , over-stretched and demoralized trying to do their best in very difficult circumstances .

WCH was the first purpose built District General Hospital after the war, (New CIC was the first PFI). Why WCH was built? There must be need for it. So what has changed now?

Geography of west Cumbria has not changed, it is still geographically isolated, and Road infrastructures have not changed, so why health care provider and commissioner seems to think, that there is no need for full fledged hospital in west Cumbria. It was needed than, so why not now?

So what you can be done to speak out
1 Write to Care Quality Commission, Care Quality Commission:
1 Tel: 03000 616161
2 Web:
3 Email:

2 Write to Prime Minister Office.

3 Write to Department of Health, addressing you concern, to Mr Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of state for Health.

4 Write to Your MP, I must tell you that Mr Reed is very well aware of the situation. But it is better for him, to know, that public at large are worried, and wants some answers.

5 Engaged in public debate about health care in general, in Cumbria

6 Keep a note of your concern, with date and time, when you write to any one about it.

7 Most important of all write, to Chief executives of North Cumbria University Hospital Trust, managers are responsible for provision of services in Cumbria, and it is their duty to see that, all the members of public has an equal access to their health care. No matter where you live.

Mahesh Dhebar

Posted by Mahesh Dhebar on 20 July 2014 at 12:26

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