Thursday, 03 September 2015

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Beds to be cut from Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary

Sweeping changes are set to get underway at the Cumberland Infirmary as bosses push ahead with plans to develop services, reduce beds and redeploy staff in the coming weeks.

Kevin Clarkson photo
Kevin Clarkson

It follows a major push to move more services out of the big acute hospitals and into the wider community. This plan, dubbed Closer to Home, was first mooted around two years ago when a massive public consultation was carried out.

In the subsequent months, primary care chiefs have been developing new services to make way for this to happen.

Now, with things finally taking shape out in the community, it is time for the big hospitals in Carlisle and Whitehaven to adapt and move forward with their own development plans – such as bringing more specialist services to the county. The North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs them, has long planned to build a new, smaller-scale hospital to replace the aging West Cumberland.

But at the Cumberland Infirmary bosses are also reducing bed numbers, in line with demand, as more patients are being cared for elsewhere.

Kevin Clarkson, the trust’s deputy chief executive and chief operating officer, said that the majority of changes will come into force during the weekend of February 14.

This includes the closure of the 18-bed Maple A ward and a slight reduction of beds in some of the hospital’s other areas. Mr Clarkson explained that these were now surplus to requirements and would allow them to address overcrowding, improve privacy and give space to launch a whole range of new services.

He reassured the public that they were not simply scrapping beds and cutting costs.

“As part of Closer to Home there is a downsizing model which has been well consulted on. We are trying to drive major clinical benefits, it’s not about ripping services out of organisations,” he explained.

He said that the changes in the community have had a domino effect on acute care needs and they have been working much more closely with the primary care trust to ensure services are clearer, easier to access and prevent overlap.

As well as the launch of Reiver House – a step-up and step-down care unit in the grounds of the hospital, much like a community hospital – there are also plans to improve accident and emergency services. These include the launch of a new primary care assessment centre at the Cumberland Infirmary, which will ensure that patients get the right type of care instead of simply waiting to be seen in casualty. The trust’s lead A&E consultant, Vincent Foxworthy, is also leading efforts to combine emergency medical assessment and surgical units to make the service more efficient.

Mr Clarkson said they were looking at a number of alternative uses for Maple A, the most favourable being to turn it into a pre-assessment area.

This would see all patients coming in for any type of routine surgery going there first for tests and consultation, creating a much simpler system.

He went on to stress that, despite the bed reduction, no staff will lose their jobs.

“It is finally starting hit home that things are changing. But in terms of the staff, the point is that yes, there will be a whole group of staff that are at risk – that is the term I have to use. But we have held back vacancies to be able to facilitate everyone into a post – it is not an issue of making redundancies,” he explained.

Instead he said they are in the process of redeploying staff into these vacant posts after a detailed skills assessment. “We are talking to staff about their aspirations and how we can develop skills to meet their needs. Whilst it is a difficult time, as people do struggle with change, we are doing what’s best for our patients and our staff,” he added.

After the initial changes have been implemented, the trust will push ahead with plans to develop more specialist services in Carlisle.

Already they are drawing up proposals to expand cardiology, urology and oral surgery, and Mr Clarkson said progress will be made in months, rather than years.

Have your say

The last thing I was worried about when serously ill in my teens was a hospital bed.

Plans to develop specialist service would help hopefully patients before needing nursing bedcare. Waiting times... however, 'should' be an important aspect of addressing heathcare.

Posted by Roy Gadsby (59) on 17 January 2009 at 17:35

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