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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Public meeting will hear concerns about future of hospital services

A public meeting will take place to raise concerns about the future of services at north Cumbria’s troubled hospitals.

Siobhan Gearing photo
Siobhan Gearing

Residents in west Cumbria have repeatedly called for services not to be transferred from the West Cumberland Hospital, in Whitehaven, to Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.

Concerns have also been raised about the seeming shift in services, and Carlisle’s ability to cope.

The pressure group Campaigning for a Safer West Cumberland Hospital is lobbying health chiefs to attend the meeting at the Recreation Ground, Whitehaven, on September 29 at 7pm.

Mum-of-two Siobhan Gearing has invited politicians and a number of health chiefs from North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust – which runs the two sites – to attend the meeting, and said she is currently awaiting their reply.

However, Copeland MP Jamie Reed has already confirmed he will attend and the campaign group has revealed that retired consultant Mahesh Dhebar will be one of the speakers.

Mr Dhebar has made public his fears that safety will be “used as an excuse” to move more and more services out of west Cumbria.

He warned this would leave the area without a fully supported hospital and, in turn, put extra pressure on the Carlisle hospital, which is already struggling with demand.

Mrs Gearing said: “The hospital trust is still not listening to us, so we’re moving onto the next step and holding a public meeting.

“We want as many people as possible to turn up and show we’re not backing down.”

This will be the second show of solidarity from the public; last month hundreds of people marched through the streets of Whitehaven, calling for all the services at the Hensingham hospital to remain on site, with nothing transferred to Carlisle or the north east.

Tens of thousands of leaflets were printed yesterday and will be posted through people’s doors explaining the threats to the hospital, as well as providing details of the public meeting.

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are in contact with Siobhan Gearing and have received notification of a meeting she is organising.”

Emotions are running high in west Cumbria after leaked reports revealed discussions have taken place about the possibility of downgrading Whitehaven’s maternity service to a midwife-led unit only.

This could mean women deemed ‘low-risk’ could give birth in Whitehaven but those considered high-risk – or who may become high-risk at any stage – would have to travel 40 miles by ambulance to Carlisle.

However, the trust said the reports are discussion documents only, as part of a wider review of all north Cumbrian health services.

It also insists that any proposed permanent changes would require full public consultation.

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