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North Cumbria University Hospitals - Caring for North Cumbria

Home > About us > Our history

Our history

Acute hospitals grew up in the 19th century to provide safe settings for elective and emergency treatments requiring bed rest  (The National Beds Inquiry, Department of Health, February 2000).

Many of the local authority hospitals were nineteenth-century poor law hospitals recently transferred to the local authorities under Neville Chamberlain's Local Government Act of 1929. They still had the grim aura of the workhouse (Paul Addison, Now the War is Over - A Social History of Britain 1945-51).

The aim should be to close the City General Hospital eventually (A Survey of the Hospital Services of the North Western Area HMSO 1945).

The development of the Cumberland Infirmary

operating-theatre-1906The original Cumberland Infirmary was an imposing building funded, gradually extended and continually supported by subscription. Wealthier patients' contributions helped make possible treatment of the less well off by distinguished specialist doctors. All types of cases could be admitted as inpatients and up to thirty times as many again as outpatients.

The old City General Hospital opened on 2 April 1864 as a "Union" Workhouse, and provided accommodation and "relief" of the poor and an adjacent "Infirmary" for chronic cases. It became known as the City General Hospital from 1946.

Another voluntary hospital was established in 1820 for Infectious Diseases at Collier Lane on the site of the present day Citadel Station. In 1847 it transferred to Crozier Lodge, a large private house next to the Infirmary. After the last Smallpox epidemic in 1904, a new Isolation Hospital was opened on Moorhouse Road, a mile beyond the city limits, which was only disposed of in 1981 following the World Health Organisation's announcement of eradication. Further voluntary provision for chronic disability and illness was made from 1883 at the Border Home for the Incurables, later Strathclyde House, demolished in 1992 to make way for a supermarket.

Even before the formation of the National Health Service at midnight on 4/5 July 1948, the need to bring all Carlisle's hospital buildings together on one site had become the policy direction . In the event this would take more than half a century to achieve with the closure of the City Maternity and General Hospitals on 15 April 2000.

The development of West Cumberland Hospital 

In West Cumbria a small voluntary and local authority managed hospital was inadequate to meet the needs of the population in an area with heavy industry and its associated morbidity. The Regional Hospital Board planned an all new District Hospital in Hensingham, Whitehaven, which opened in 1964 as the first such post war development in England. The old Whitehaven Hospital continued to be used for elderly care until closure following fire damage in 1988 whilst Workington Infirmary closed in 2005, in favour of the Private Finance Initiative Workington Community Hospital.

In 2009, the announcement was made that West Cumberland Hospital would be redeveloped and reburbished using capital funds and this work is progressing (see our deciated website Building Your Hospital in West Cumbria).

The development of our Trust

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust was formed in 2001 when Carlisle Hospitals NHS Trust merged with West Cumbria Healthcare NHS Trust. The Trust became a University Hospital Trust in September 2008.

Our main commissioner is NHS Cumbria (Cumbria Teaching Primary Care Trust) along with the locality commissing groups for Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland and the Eden Valley.