After a hectic first year of mainly attending meetings and having discussions we started the second year with compiling and writing our response to the Public Consultation Document, The Future of Healthcare in West, North and East Cumbria. Our thirty-page response set out our thoughts on what this future should look like. We set out the aims and objectives of Voice, supporting further integration of health and social care but at the same time preserving vital core services at West Cumberland Hospital. Our response covered every aspect of the proposals made, often with constructive suggestions for improvements and mitigations. Although we have worries about many of the proposals for the future of health services in West Cumbria, our major concern is for the future of maternity services and associated children’s’ services.
In our consultation response we proposed a new Option 0 for maternity services in West Cumbria to maintain the status quo for 2-5 years. This would allow a judgement to be made on the impacts of other proposed changes and developments in West Cumbria, for instance the University of Lancashire Medical Campus, Moorside nuclear power station and coal mining.
The responses to the Consultation Document led the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group to decide in March 2017 to test/audit Option 1 for maternity (Consultant Led Unit with an alongside Midwife Led Unit). If this was not deemed to be viable or if not enough ‘progress’ was made Option 2 (a stand-alone Midwife Led Unit only at West Cumberland Hospital - the preferred option of the Success Regime) or Option 3 (no births at all at West Cumberland Hospital) would be implemented. Later that month Cumbria County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee referred this decision to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.
Voice members Jon Ward and Sandra Guise are part of the group which is deciding how the proposed maternity services audit is conducted. Jon is also keeping an eye on the possibility of a Judicial Review if the Secretary of State decision is deemed to not be in the interests of the people of West Cumbria.
During the Copeland by-election and local council elections Voice members attended several political meetings and had separate meetings with local political leaders to explain our position regarding the provision of health care in West Cumbria and to lobby them to fight for these services.
The Clinical Commissioning Group with the support of the health service providers have set up a co-production/working together group to engage interested parties and individuals to help to find solutions for the challenges faced by the health service. This is operating mainly in West Cumbria and with an emphasis on Maternity and Paediatric Services. Members of Voice have been attending and have been actively involved in meetings of the steering group and the sub-groups set up on different topics.
Our experience of these meetings so far is that the ambition has not matched the progress to date, partly because of the scope of the problems and partly because of the lack of trust between the different parties.
Apart from the co-production meetings, members attend meetings of the West Cumbria Community Forum where we contribute to more general discussions about health care in Cumbria. We also attend regular meetings such as Clinical Commissioning Group and Hospitals Trust Board meetings and arrange meetings with Chief Executives and others from these and other relevant organisations to seek information and discuss a variety of issues. Our Chairman is a member of the University of Lancashire West Cumberland Medical Education Centre Project Board. Feedback on all these meetings is given and discussed at our two-weekly meetings.
Amongst these many strands of work mention should be made of the work on ‘Patients Experience’, at first with Debbie Freake and lately with Georgia Wright from the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust. Though not without frustrations these meetings can be seen as genuine attempts at co-production. A big thank you to them and to our member Viv Stucke who drives this forward for us and keeps us on our toes in making it work.
I realise that this report is short and undoubtedly incomplete. But I would like to end by thanking everybody for the dedication and hard work put in the last 12 months with a special mention to Eileen Turner for keeping our website ticking over.
Although small we are a recognised body in the present process which in itself is a success. However we will have to face up to our limited influence and maybe discuss in the not so far away future if our existence as a group is still relevant and desirable.