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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Protest warning over Carlisle cottage hospital closure threat

Health bosses have been warned they would face strong protests if they tried to close Carlisle’s cottage hospital.

Reiver House photo
Reiver House, in the grounds of Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary

The future of Reiver House is being considered as part of a move to provide more care in patients’ homes.

But NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been warned that any attempt at closure would be fiercely resisted.

The threat to the future of the unit, in the grounds of the Cumberland Infirmary, has been discussed by members of Carlisle City Council’s ruling executive.

And they have asked authority chief executive Jason Gooding to write to the CCG highlighting their concerns.

Council deputy leader Elsie Martlew is also one of councillors for Castle, the ward in which Reiver House sits.

She said: “I don’t want to see any reduction of services in Carlisle. I’m concerned that its future is being considered.”

Reiver House has been providing step-up and step-down care to patients since late 2008. When it opened, health chiefs said it was key to reducing bed-blocking problems in the main hospital.

Acting like a cottage hospital, it allows GPs to admit patients who could not be cared for in their own homes. Meanwhile, those who no longer need medical care but are not well enough to go home can also be cared for at Reiver House.

Mrs Martlew is concerned that any move to close the cottage hospital could have a negative impact on the infirmary.

She added: “Before it was opened we had tremendous problems with bed-blocking at the infirmary, which affected waiting lists.

“We in Carlisle need our cottage hospital just as much as those elsewhere do.

“Not only do we want to keep the services we’ve got, we want to enhance them.

“We don’t want to lose anything.”

The threat to Reiver House was revealed by The Cumberland News last month after the CCG told members of Cumbria’s health scrutiny committee, a panel of councillors, that they are looking at other options for providing care.

Although NHS-run, the 14-bed Reiver House building is leased from a private company.

Staff from the Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust (CPFT), which runs all the area’s community hospitals, provide the care.

Instead, the CCG and community health trust are looking at whether they could use the funding to improve care in patients’ own homes.

A CCG spokesman said it follows a recent pilot scheme in Carlisle, but insisted discussions were at an early stage and that no decision had been taken.

Speculation over the future of Reiver House has reignited fears for north Cumbria’s community hospital network, which was under serious threat several years ago.

Back then the hospitals – including those in Brampton, Wigton, Penrith, Alston and Keswick – were saved following a major public backlash, in which entire communities took to the streets to fight bed cuts and possible closures.

John Holland, of the league of friends that supports the Brampton hospital, said since then the community hospitals had been key in providing step-up and step-down care to patients who are too ill to be at home but not sick enough to need a bed in one of the bigger hospitals.

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