Eighteen retired consultants have today spoken out about their concerns for the future of Carlisle's troubled hospital.

It comes as our sister paper, The Cumberland News, reveals more serious incidents reported to bosses - one of which involved a patient death.

The group of consultants say they are "extremely concerned" about the situation at the Cumberland Infirmary - and warn it will never be resolved without a dramatic increase in finances.

Guy Broome, former orthopaedic consultant In a letter to The Cumberland News, signed by all 18 of the retired senior staff, it says the problems are a knock on effect of year-on-year funding cuts and calls for "high-level political intervention".

They add: "As retired consultants who have a continuing interest, and affection for, the Cumberland Infirmary, we are now watching from the sidelines with dismay as the hospital itself struggles for the lifeblood of adequate funding."

Last week we revealed that there have been six so-called never events in north Cumbria's hospitals since July - five of which happened in theatres.

The News & Star also revealed a serious incident in which a patient died at the infirmary after being transferred from Whitehaven - a case later highlighted in Parliament.

Related article: Inquiry launched after patient dies following transfer to Carlisle hospital 

Now more details have emerged about incidents recorded by North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which is currently in special measures after inspectors found it to be failing.

In one case, reported in February, a patient had a central line - a long thin flexible tube, usually inserted into the neck, chest or groin - inserted into their femoral artery to provide drugs and other fluids.

They later died. While a consultant ruled they believe the outcome would have been the same had it been correctly inserted, the case has been referred to the coroner for full assessment.

Another case saw a man flee a mental health ward without staff noticing - and was later found hiding in the back of an ambulance.

The patient was discovered by A&E staff in March. It is unclear whether this was at the Cumberland Infirmary or West Cumberland Hospital.

Related article:   ‘Why I would drive my sick children out of the county’

The Cumberland News can reveal that the man had wandered off from Yewdale Ward, at the West Cumberland Hospital. Staff had been unaware of his disappearance until the call from A&E.

While no further action was required, it is among a catalogue of incidents recorded by the trust. One hospital worker told The Cumberland News the incidents were examples of the stress and strain staff were under through lack of resource and being overworked.

Peter Jennings, former consultant radiologist The retired consultants, who worked at the infirmary for many years, believe the problems are a symptom of serious financial problems within the trust - which is more than £60 million in debt.

In a joint letter, they said the situation has been building for years due to the trust being "starved" of the finances needed to run two hospitals.

They add that problems are exacerbated by the PFI repayments on the infirmary building and "year-on-year reduced funding".

"Our best interpretation of the figures suggest that in the last four years, the North Cumbria hospitals have received £106.8m less than would have been needed simply to keep up with NHS inflation," they say.

The consultants - who also warn senior medics are leaving as a result - say they have raised the issues with the Carlisle and Penrith MPs, and are now calling on the public to up the pressure.

"Only high-level political intervention seems likely to stop further decline of our essential hospital provision," the letter adds.

The letter was signed by: 

  • Keith Ions MB FRCS retired Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • JEG Shand BSc MB FRCSed retired Consultant Vascular Surgeon
  • Dr Julian F Harrison FRCA retired Consultant Anaesthetist
  • Jim Palmer MB FRCS retired Consultant Colorectal Surgeon
  • Ian Brewis MB FRCP retired Consultant Rheumatologist
  • Hugh O'Brien MB FRCP retired Consultant Haematologist
  • Guy Broome MB FRCS retired Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Tony Popple BSc MB BS FRCPath retired Consultant Pathologist
  • Colin Rodgers MB BCh BAO FFARCSI retired Consultant Anaesthetist
  • Mr AN Edwards MB ChB FRCS retired Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Chris Lord MB MSc FRCPath retired Consultant Chemical Pathologist
  • Dr T Girdwood MB ChB DMRD FRCR retired Consultant Radiologist
  • Dr A Linsley MB ChB FRCA retired Consultant Anaesthetist
  • Dr PG Jennings BSc ChB MRCP FRCR retired Consultant Radiologist
  • Dr Martin Payne FRCA retired Consultant Anaesthetist
  • Bill Paterson ChB FRCP retired Consultant Dermatologist
  • David Hand
  • Mahesh Dhebar MS (Ortho) FRCS retired Orthopaedic Surgeon (WCH)

Of the Yewdale Ward incident, a Cumbria Partnership NHS Trust spokeswoman said: "We have thorough systems and procedures for reporting and investigating incidents to minimise the risk of incidents such as this reoccurring and to learn lessons.

"This incident has been reported internally and is being investigated. The investigation is reviewing why and how this happened and we will ensure that all possible lessons are learned."

Earlier this week, Cumbrian MP Jamie Reed made his own calls to the Government for more money after securing a debate in Parliament.

The Labour MP praised The Cumberland News and News & Star's investigative work as he addressed Health Minister Ben Gummer, claiming the problems in the hospitals were due to an "over-burdened, under-funded, under-staffed system". 

Related article:   Jeremy Hunt challenged to see shocking state of NHS in Cumbria for himself

He has now called for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to visit the county to see the problems for himself.

Also present at the debate were Carlisle MP John Stevenson and Workington MP Sue Hayman.

What the hospital trust says

Stephen Eames Chief executive Stephen Eames said: “It would be wholly inappropriate for us to comment on any individual patient’s care or on any investigations that may be taking place within the trust.

“However, I would like to be clear that none of the reported incidents relate to patients being transferred between our hospital sites.

“Anything that causes harm to our patients is totally unacceptable, therefore we are continuing to work hard to reduce harm and embed a safe learning culture.

“It is important to note that the fact more incidents are being openly reported is very positive as it demonstrates that we are acting upon and learning from incidents. Successful NHS organisations have high incident reporting rates and I am pleased to say that recent information released by the NHS National Reporting and Learning System shows that the trust has gone from being in the lowest 30 per cent for reporting incidents to the highest 30 per cent in just six months. The published information also showed a reduction in severe harm and death from 1.4 per cent to 0.8 per cent, which is a positive step for the organisation.

“We actively encourage our staff to raise any concerns they may have about patient care through the established systems we have in place, including our whistle-blowing policy. This means we can look into any concerns fully and in an open and transparent manner.”