A Cumbrian peer is calling for reassurances about the future of the three county community hospitals set to lose their beds.

Lord Roger Liddle, who represents Wigton on Cumbria County Council, has written to health boss Stephen Eames asking for a guarantee in writing on funding, services and staffing.

NHS bosses agreed last year to remove beds from Wigton, Maryport and Alston hospitals, instead caring for more people at home, following the controversial Success Regime consultation.

They have since been working with each community to draw up a vision showing how care will be provided and hospital buildings used in other ways, such as extended clinics.

But Lord Liddle has previously expressed "grave concerns" at the manner and pace of the changes, with leaders previously saying that the process of removing beds could start in April.

The Labour peer tabled a motion at the November full council meeting that no beds should close until adequate alternative arrangements are in place. It received unanimous support.

In Wigton, the Solway Alliance has drawn up proposals about how care can best be provided without hospital beds.

It includes using beds at Inglewood care home in Wigton for those NHS patients who cannot be looked after in their own homes.

But before it is implemented, Lord Liddle has sent a letter to Mr Eames, chief executive of the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, asking for reassurances in writing.

These are that:

  • No beds will close until a new community care hub is in place and beds at Inglewood are available.
  • Beds at Inglewood will be free for as long as NHS care is needed and that there will be 24/7 access to nurses.
  • Staff currently staffing Wigton's inpatient ward will be retrained to work in the community and that all savings will be reinvested in these local services.
  • That the Wigton hospital will not close and that the range of clinics available locally will be expanded and that, in time, facilities in the town could potentially be expanded if economics allow.

Lord Liddle stressed that he still opposes NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group's decision to remove beds.

However, as the decision is already made, he wants to ensure communities receive the best possible outcome.

In his letter to Mr Eames, he said: "I strongly opposed the CCG's decision to close beds. I still find it difficult to believe that this makes sense.

"The problem of bed blocking at our acute hospitals is considerable. To my mind the plans to make a significant reduction in bed numbers at the acute hospitals, despite these pressures, are ambitious and possibly even reckless. In this situation, the proposals to close beds at community hospitals appear perverse to lay people."

However he went on to blame Government policy for the scale of staffing and financial pressures in the NHS.

Despite his concerns, he said he supports the Solway Alliance's plan and applauds local efforts to find solutions.

Lord Liddle told The Cumberland News that he has had verbal assurances, but wants to ensure they are now set out in writing.

He said he is particularly keen to ensure the funding arrangements for NHS beds at Inglewood are clear from the start, so that those needing medical care are not left footing the bill themselves.

Plans for alternative care provision have also been drawn up for Alston and Maryport, alongside local communities.

All three 'visions' were launched at the end of last year, with a chance for local people to comment and add suggestions.

Details are now being firmed up, with bosses expecting to begin implementing new arrangements from the spring onwards.

They have previously said no beds will close until proper alternative care is in place, and that it would be phased.