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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Healthcare leaders pledge positive future for West Cumberland Hospital

Healthcare leaders pledge positive future for West Cumberland Hospital

Posted on Monday 29th September 2014
West Cumberland Hospital

West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven

Healthcare leaders in North Cumbria have today pledged a positive future for West Cumberland Hospital which will continue to treat the vast majority of patients in West Cumbria. 

Although acute medical services at West Cumberland Hospital remain very fragile and changes will need to be made to ensure safe care for a small number of the sickest patients in future, healthcare leaders are keen to stress that the new hospital in Whitehaven, due to open next year, will:

  • continue to have an A&E department
  • continue to take the vast majority of medical admissions
  • continue to provide critical care with specialists looking after the seriously ill
  • provide access to more local services than ever before with thousands more outpatients appointments to be brought back to West Cumbria with access to a wider variety of specialists
  • carry out more operations, with more theatres, all of which will be fully utilised
  • care for hundreds more people choosing their local hospital for routine operations and procedures

As part of the drive to provide more services closer to where people live, there will also be more hospital specialists working with GPs and other health and care professionals, in the community.

Today, health leaders from both North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) met with local MPs Jamie Reed and Tony Cunningham to update them on discussions taking place as part of the five year plan for safe and sustainable health services.   Tonight, both organisations will be represented at the public meeting organised by hospital campaigners and will be pleased to answer questions about progress to date.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said: "We are wholeheartedly committed to providing a positive future for West Cumberland Hospital and want to deliver care that is better than anything West Cumbria has seen before and amongst the best in the NHS. 

“The changes we have already made to improve safety have resulted in a drastic and continued reduction in our mortality rates and better clinical outcomes for patients. Because of this, more people are now getting quicker access to the right specialists and are ultimately living longer and healthier lives.

 "Change is never easy for anyone, but the difficult and important decisions we have taken over the past year are testament to the hard work and dedication of our frontline teams and I would like to publicly thank our staff who have been instrumental in making these change a success.

"We recognise that there is always more we can do to improve the overall experience, not just the clinical outcomes, of those patients who do need to transfer from West Cumberland Hospital and we are now focussed on continuing to make things even better."

Dr David Rogers, medical director of NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group said: “There are serious challenges facing our health economy that we cannot ignore. The five year plan that we are developing is about making sure that many more people receive their healthcare closer to where they live. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that patients should only travel when absolutely necessary.

“GPs are working in partnership with colleagues at the Trust to ensure best possible future arrangements for patients and we will only sign off any changes to services if these would result in better clinical outcomes for patients.”

Despite the many positive improvements already taking place at North Cumbria, there are further vital challenges which must be addressed as outlined by the Chief Inspector of Hospitals, in order for the Trust to come out of special measures.   

Top of the critical list is the continued fragility of acute medical services at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven following the removal of all remaining junior doctors in August this year by Health Education North East.  

Medical rotas continue to be staffed largely by locums and despite continued mass recruitment efforts and a newly introduced recruitment premium to attract permanent staff and a new nurse practitioner model which is providing vital support for medical patients, the fragility of the situation is not improving to the levels required.

In light of these ongoing significant clinical risks which are being actively managed on a day-to-day basis to ensure safe care, and the unacceptable vulnerability of relying on such a large locum medical workforce which is unsustainable in the long-term, the Trust's clinicians have been working together with partners over the summer to discuss how to best provide safe care for patients in West Cumbria with certain high risk medical conditions in future.

Although no firm decisions have yet been taken, discussions have focussed around stroke care and the need for more people to get access to life-saving thrombolysing drugs in order to bring north Cumbria in line with the rest of the country, improving access to expert care for those with gastrointestinal bleeds and more patients getting quicker access to expert coronary care in the county’s specialist centre in Carlisle.