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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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We need to elect a health champion

This week we revealed the shocking death-rate figures for north Cumbria’s hospitals.

Last week we reported that our hospitals were forced to scrap operations.

Last month we recorded that the North Cumbria University Hospital Trust admitted liability over breast screening errors in 2010 that resulted in 16 women who were given the all-clear actually having to be treated for cancer.

And on top of all this, we have the steady drip, drip, drip of the hospital service in north Cumbria overspending on an annual basis – the current total is £26m.

As a result, the takeover by Northumbria Healthcare will not now be completed on April 1, as planned.

We are now hoping that the Government will step in and write off our debts which date back to the creation of the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle under a Public Finance Initiative (PFI) deal. As Tony Blair was so keen on these deals and is doing so well now, can we bill him for this overspend?

We need this money to be written off so Northumbria Healthcare can press ahead with taking over the ailing trust (though Lord knows why they’re still interested in such a mess).

The big problem is that much good and even great work is being done on a daily basis by the staff.

But the simple fact is that at the top level, our hospitals have been poorly managed for years.

We’ve seen managers go and take up another highly-paid job elsewhere.

Speaking about the latest concern, Mike Walker, the medical director of the trust conceded that the organisation had not acted quickly enough to reduce mortality rates and pointed out that work is underway to improve the situation. He said: “We have not given it the priority we should have done.”

On this page last week I suggested that following the election of police and crime commissioners, we should also be allowed to vote on the leaders of our local education and health authorities.

I’m not joking.

We should all be looking forward to a new and more transparent management team taking over the north Cumbria trust.

But we also need someone with an overview, who can hold executives and their decisions to account and who will represent the needs and concerns of patients and taxpayers.

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