Posted on Monday 21st March 2011
A doctors' plan for sustainable hospital services in Carlisle and Whitehaven has been published today.
Working together over the last six months, hospital and family doctors have produced a clinical strategy which sets how out how the rest of the changes agreed in the 2008 Closer to Home consultation will be delivered over the coming years.
The strategy describes the opportunity to develop more specialised services at the Cumberland Infirmary which people currently have to travel outside Cumbria to receive, like a new life-saving heart treatment which will start to be provided in Carlisle for the first time later this year.
It also includes a commitment to a new West Cumberland Hospital which clinicians want to develop into a hospital of choice for patients undergoing planned operations from across Cumbria and other parts of the region.
Importantly, the strategy reaffirms the commitment of GPs and hospital doctors to consultant-led maternity and accident & emergency services at both hospitals - a key component of the original Closer to Home plan.
The clinical strategy will now be reassessed by independent health economists to make sure it is sustainable and achieves the efficiencies the whole NHS is being asked to make over the next four years.
It will form part of the full business case for the new West Cumberland Hospital which regional health managers will be reviewing over the coming months.
The plan will also be used as a blueprint for a new foundation trust which is to be selected to take forward hospital services in north Cumbria in the future.
Since the Closer to Home consultation, improvements at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven have seen big falls in infection rates alongside the development of new community health services to provide treatment and care to more people, closer to where they live.
Last year, more than 180 new nursing and other front-line community health staff were recruited in Cumbria to provide more care for people closer to where they live.
Mike Walker is a consultant surgeon and Medical Director at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. He said: “A lot of improvements have already been made for patients inside and outside hospitals in north Cumbria.
“This strategy is the fruit of a lot of very good work between hospital doctors and GPs to set out the sort of services we need in north Cumbria to give patients the very best that modern medicine can offer.
“It is now time to take this work further and set out clearly and unambiguously what the future can offer for strong, safe and sustainable hospital services over the coming years.
“One of the key challenges facing hospital care in north Cumbria has been the relatively small population served; a population which nonetheless would find it difficult to travel further for medical care that can only be provided in hospital, particularly for accident & emergency and maternity services.
“To help square that all-important circle, hospital clinicians and staff will increasingly work as one team across both sites, ensuring that patients are always seen in the right place at the right time to give them the best possible recovery."
Dr David Rogers, lead GP for Copeland, said: “The West Cumberland Hospital has a strong role to play over the coming years in providing high-quality planned surgical procedures and becoming the hospital of choice for patients undergoing this sort of surgery from all over Cumbria.
“Alongside this, the clinical strategy reinforces the need to maintain consultant-led maternity and accident & emergency services at Whitehaven."
Dr Peter Weaving, lead GP for Carlisle, said: “The opportunity to develop more specialised services in Carlisle is an exciting one.
“There is an enormous amount of hard work still ahead but this strategy sets out clearly how hospital and family doctors will work shoulder to shoulder in delivering strong, safe and sustainable health services for the people of north Cumbria.”
The clinical strategy will now be sent to NHS Cumbria and North Cumbria University Hospital Trust’s next board meetings for approval.