Cumbria

Cumbria's struggling health trust faces 'tough decisions'

Cumberland Infirmary
Image caption North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust was placed in special measures in 2013 after the Keogh review found higher than expected mortality rates

"Tough decisions" will have to be made to improve one of the "most challenged" health trusts, a new report says.

An NHS body set up to look at the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is exploring how failing parts of the system could be overhauled.

One option is moving A&E and maternity care from one of the two hospitals, meaning some patients travelling more than 40 miles (64km) for treatment.

The trust is predicting an £86m overspend this year alone.

Success Regime's report is in response to concerns raised by watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC found there were serious staffing issues and some elements of medical care at the West Cumberland Hospital were "inadequate".

Director Dr Stephen Singleton said the trust "simply can't afford what we're doing at the moment to carry on".

Image caption Retired surgeon Mahesh Dhebar said moving services away from Whitehaven would be "diabolical"

"This particular part of the country is one of the most challenged parts of the whole NHS," he said.

Success Regime said the trust, which is in special measures, was facing "arguably some of the most difficult recruitment and retention challenges in the NHS".

The new plan will look at reducing large bills for locum doctors and basing greater care in the community.

The report outlines options such as transferring some or all acute services - like complex surgery, consultant-led maternity care and A&E - to either the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle or the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

West Cumbria health campaigner and retired surgeon Mahesh Dhebar said moving services away from Whitehaven would be a "diabolical way of treating the population of West Cumbria".

"We will continue our fight and struggle for the emergency care at West Cumberland Hospital which we need, which we desire and which is rightfully ours."

Public consultations are continuing with a final decision expected in October.

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