Health chiefs in North Cumbria have reinforced that West Cumberland Hospital has a positive future.
NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has stressed that people living in West Cumbria will continue to receive the vast majority of their healthcare at West Cumberland Hospital.
In response to ongoing concerns raised by local people NHS Cumbria CCG is stating clearly that there will be accident and emergency care, medical admissions and critical care/intensive care, all available 24 hours a day at the hospital. NHS Cumbria CCG also expects to commission a 24 hour paediatric service and is currently in discussion with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust about the best way to achieve this.
The redeveloped hospital, which is costing £95 million, will also result in more outpatient appointments and planned care delivered there, so fewer people overall will be required to travel to Cumberland Infirmary Carlisle. Some procedures, including the use of new high tech laser equipment for urology patients, will be delivered at West Cumberland Hospital for the first time at any hospital in Cumbria.
In relation to maternity services, NHS Cumbria CCG has said publicly on many occasions that it wants to continue to commission a consultant-led maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital. However, given concerns that have been raised by the Trust and by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) around anaesthetic cover and the availability of a second theatre at West Cumberland Hospital, a review of the current services across Cumbria is to be carried out by specialists from the Royal Colleges, who have expertise in the fields of maternity and related services. This is scheduled to take place in November 2014.
Dr David Rogers, medical director of NHS Cumbria CCG and a GP in West Cumbria for more than 20 years, said: “We are fully committed to making sure that local people receive the best and safest possible health care. Where safety issues are raised by the providers of services and by the bodies that regulate the NHS, these cannot be ignored. We must address them.” He said: “As a local GP, who has lived and worked in West Cumbria for many years, I became involved in health service management because I was and remain passionate about ensuring that local people have a good hospital which provides high quality and safe services. We know that while West Cumberland Hospital delivers good and at times excellent care by a very committed workforce that there are other times when the service provided falls below the standard it should be and below what we all deserve.”
He explained that the concerted efforts that have taken place by the Trust, which have included transferring some high risk patients to Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle have resulted in sustained improvements in mortality rates.
“We have independent evidence to show that fewer people are dying following complex surgery or treatment and that overall we are seeing better outcomes. However, we fully recognise that travelling is an issue and that there are concerns about transfer arrangements. We are working with the Trust and the ambulance service to address these concerns and to ensure that patients are only transferred if it is believed that they would have a better outcome by doing so.”
Dr Rogers added: “The introduction of the Heart Centre at Carlisle – which was opposed by many including some outside Cumbria – means that not only do patients no longer have to travel to the North East to have stents inserted but due to the fact we have a service in Cumbria we all now have access to the best treatment for heart attacks. This alone has had a big impact on the mortality rates in the Trust. The centralisation of hip fracture surgery on the Carlisle site which is complex surgery due to the frailty of the patients has also led to a progressive fall in mortality. What this means in real terms is there are people alive in West Cumbria today who would not be alive if the changes to these pathways had not been made.
“We are now working with hospital consultants on some other pathways for small numbers of seriously ill patents to see if changes would also lead to improved outcomes and a further improvement in mortality rates. These discussions continue and the CCG would only agree to changes if there was clinical evidence to show that patients would benefit by transferring. But even if they are agreed and implemented this still would mean the vast majority of people admitted to West Cumberland Hospital for medical problems will continue to stay and be cared for there.
“In addition to this there are plans to bring back thousands of outpatient appointments to West Cumbria and arrangements are being made for a very wide range of surgery and outpatient procedures to be available at West Cumberland Hospital.”
NHS Cumbria CCG was established on 1 April 2013 and is responsible for commissioning – assessing need and buying – the majority of hospital and community health services for people living in Cumbria. It is GP-led and all practices are members and in the Copeland locality every practice is represented on the locality executive.