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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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No quick fixes for local NHS despite £47 million hospitals bailout

A health boss has warned there is no quick fix for the challenges facing the local NHS, despite news of a £47 million bailout for north Cumbria’s debt-stricken hospitals.

David Rogers photo
David Rogers

David Rogers, medical director of NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said a long-term solution is needed to prevent the hospitals falling back into financial trouble.

His comments come after it was revealed the trust that runs Carlisle’s troubled Cumberland Infirmary was being threatened with legal action by suppliers because it could not pay its bills.

Meanwhile, vital medical equipment such as dialysis machines, incubators and defibrillators were in urgent need of replacement.

Following a plea for help, the Government has now agreed a £47m bailout to pay off its debts and replace equipment. But Dr Rogers said a wider solution is now needed to resolve historic problems at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and across the local healthcare system.

He said: “The size of the figure represents the size of the challenge faced by North Cumbria hospitals and the health economy in Cumbria.

“There is no one quick fix to the challenges faced and doing nothing is not an option as this situation is not sustainable. We need a cross organisation approach, a plan to redress all the financial challenges across all providers of health and social care in the county, not just north Cumbria.

“This means organisations working together to address some of the very real challenges they face around quality, sustainability, and recruitment as well as finances.”

He said the CCG is currently working with all of the area’s providers to draw up a five-year plan for Cumbria, which will be key to providing high quality, sustainable services.

As part of this, roadshows have been taking place across north Cumbria to find out what concerns and priorities local people have for healthcare. Consultation sessions have been held in all the main towns, with the last due to take place in Alston on Monday. All of the comments received will be fed into the five-year plan. Dallan McGleenan, a local representative at health union Unison, agrees that a long-term solution is needed – and says it must tackle the spiralling cost of Carlisle’s PFI hospital.

A planned takeover of the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital by Northumbria Healthcare has also been hailed as part of the solution, something he believes couldn’t happen without the Government bailout.

“The money is good news. I would have been surprised if Northumbria would have been willing to take over the trust with that level of debt. It gives them a chance to start off on a level playing field, to provide quality care for the people of north Cumbria,” he said.

“These debts are a side effect of the PFI hospital, along with the ongoing Government squeeze on health budgets. This money is not a long-term solution, it’s a sticking plaster.”

He added there now needed to be some investment in services, and in staff, for the hospitals to be able to deliver high quality care for the future and resolve financial issues for good.

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