We are now in the fourth week of the twelve week consultation on options for changes to healthcare proposed by the West, North and East Cumbria Success Regime. The regime covers a massive area but the major changes they propose will have the most severe impact in West Cumbria where people will be forced to travel much greater distances to hospital, even for time-dependent emergency treatment.
We believe that this will short-change all of us here in the West of the County. No matter that we have in our midst the UK’s most hazardous nuclear clean-up job, employing more than 10,000 people. No matter that there are plans to build the UKs largest new nuclear power station, employing up to 5,000 workers during construction and more than 1,000 during on-going operation. No matter that planned new coal mining facilities are predicted to employ more than 500 people. These industries do, and will, support many more jobs in their supply chains.
Even with all this, the options proposed for healthcare will give us access to medical facilities which are far worse than that expected by people in the rest of the country.
In all their plans we can see no innovation, no thinking out of the box, just the continuation of a policy which was first mooted in 2006, that is the downgrading of our hospital in Whitehaven.
West Cumbrians Voice, like many other organisations and individuals, is not accepting this and is not lying down. We have spent a year pressing for facts and data to fully understand the implications of the proposed changes. We have often found it difficult to get the information we need but we are now preparing briefing notes on each one of the areas of change to help people to consider what all this will mean to them before completing the consultation questionnaire.
We have published our first briefing note on maternity services. With the help of others we are making the case for keeping a 24 hour a day/7 days a week consultant led unit at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. Other briefing notes will be published very soon.
If anyone has already completed the consultation questionnaire but finds that they want to change or add to their comments this can be done at any time. Just show clearly on the survey (whether written or on-line) so that their analysts are aware. They would also like to know what changed your thoughts and ideas.
Stephen Eames, Chief Executive of the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust and Trust director Debbie Freake both said at the public meeting in Whitehaven on 19 October that they too would like to see a 24/7 consultant led unit at Whitehaven... but they then stated again the reasons why they consider they can’t do it – the same reasons we were given back in 2006. So, with all those arguments, they have still been able to run a full 24/7 consultant led unit for ten years!
They tell us their vision is of West Cumbria becoming a centre of excellence with a new medical school and the development of innovative models of healthcare for us and other communities remote from major hospitals. This would be a hopeful and exciting prospect if we could believe that it can be done without having the maternity (and other) services within safe reach.
We believe the Success Regime and National Health Service organisations here should be brave and sensible and keep maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven as they are now.