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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Send north Cumbria hospitals concerns to Prime Minister

A retired consultant is urging anyone concerned about their hospital services in north Cumbria to write to the Prime Minister directly.

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Consultant: Mahesh Dhebar is retired

Mahesh Dhebar has spoken out in response to a report by national inspectors which revealed the Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals are still not up to scratch.

Although improvements were recognised, Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven remain in special measures.

Mr Dhebar, who retired last year, is concerned there is now too much focus on improving death rates to get out of special measures rather than the overall quality of services.

And he fears safety will now be used as an excuse to move more and more services out of west Cumbria, leaving the area without a fully supported hospital and in turn putting extra pressure on the Carlisle hospital, which is already struggling with demand.

He told the News & Star: “They are always talking about mortality but never morbidity – by that I mean the complication rate, cancellation of operations, cancellation of appointments, basically the outcomes for patients.”

Copeland MP Jamie Reed last week unveiled a leaked report showing that a review of maternity services is planned, as well as talk of consolidating “some urgent care and acute medicine” at the Cumberland Infirmary site.

Mr Dhebar is urging hospital bosses to come clean with the public now and allow them to have their say, before the new West Cumberland Hospital opens later this year.

He is also calling on those with concerns to write to David Cameron, health secretary Jeremy Hunt, watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and local MPs, as well as making their feelings known to bosses at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and Cumbria’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

He fears that unless the pressure is kept up, the West Cumberland will lose its consultant-led maternity services and in turn many others, meanwhile the Cumberland Infirmary will be unable to cope with extra patients.

Mr Dhebar added: “Maternity is a real focal point here. If that stays then the rest will have to stay. If that goes then we will be left with a £90m giant cottage hospital.

“There would be A&E but it would be like having a front door with nothing behind it – no surgical or medical emergency back up. I don’t think they can change maternity without public consultation. They need to tell the public what they want to do and see what the public’s response is.”

Hospital bosses insist no decisions have yet been taken. The trust is working to draw up a five-year plan, which aims to address all of the issues.

CCG bosses say that the report referred to by Mr Reed was a work in progress and subject to change.

Nigel Maguire, its chief officer, admitted that discussions about maternity have taken place but he added: “We have already given a public commitment that no significant, permanent changes will be made without formal public consultation.”

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