Jamie Reed Copeland MP: Local health services need more money

Jamie ReedTHE quality and accessibility of our local health services is one of the most important things to our community.

These services touch us all: they help bring us into this world and, inevitably, they have a role in helping us out of it.

This is why the ongoing Success Regime process should be so important to all of us.

Last week’s publication of the public progress report by the Success Regime with regard to the West Cumberland Hospital provides nothing that is set in stone.

Much of the report should be welcomed, but some elements should have us on our guard.

Let me be absolutely clear, yet again: consultant led maternity services at the WCH are non negotiable.

The Success Regime is a genuine attempt to improve healthcare in our area – that’s why I asked NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens to introduce such a process (the alternative was service closures and likely administration) and it’s worth noting the improvements in this report in contrast to recent thinking by the government and by the local hospitals trust.

In October last year, under former Chief Executive Ann Farrar, WCH was faced with a slash and burn approach.

A&E was set to become a minor injuries unit and what was to follow would have been catastrophic.

Sir Neil McKay – the man responsible for the Success Regime – is working hard to make this process work for us. Stephen Eames, the new Chief Executive of our hospitals trust is regarded as one of the most effective in the country. David Rogers, local GP and the Medical Director of our Clinical Commissioning Group is lifting every stone in an attempt to craft a solution that works.

Theirs is the hardest job in the NHS in England. I’m not a spokesperson for the Success Regime, but it’s important to be honest about their efforts.

So far, Cumbria is the problem that refuses to be solved.

The Success Regime talks the language and appears to share the ambitions that I have pushed for over many years.

It talks of us becoming an “..international centre of excellence for integrated health and care provision in rural, remote and dispersed communities…” as has always been my intention; it links this ambition to the new UCLan medical school at Westlakes.

In addition, the report makes it clear that the acquisition of our local hospital trust by Northumbria is “no longer appropriate”.

It also makes it clear that more operations are intended to be carried out at WCH than happens now, with some patient flows being returned from Carlisle.

Big improvements, but not yet enough. And this is before we consider our smaller hospitals, GP surgeries and the emaciated children’s and adult services provided by Cumbria County Council.

Emaciated as a result of government cuts. Because ultimately, the Success Regime will only succeed if government gives it the resources it needs to succeed.

No ifs, no buts: these are the cold, hard facts. There are undoubtedly structural problems with our local NHS, but all roads lead to this conclusion: it costs more to provide health services in a community like ours than it does in an urban location. The government must recognise this and act accordingly.

It was hard work to attract the money for the new WCH. Harder still to get the project reinstated after David Cameron and George Osborne cancelled the project (albeit with less money).

Nonetheless, I’ve continued to work to attract money for our hospital (and smaller hospitals) including the building of the new Health Centre at Cleator Moor, and now there is silence on Phase 2 of the rebuild (the scheme whereby the site is finished and the existing buildings are modernised).

I lobbied for a £32m grant for the WCH that was approved in January last year, but since then nothing has happened, work has stopped and the fate of phase 2 is unclear.

Yet again, I’ve called upon government to act and will be making the arguments for our services – again – in the budget debate in the House of Commons. In this regard, I’ve already written to George Osborne setting out our needs and our concerns.

To secure what we need, it requires every single one of us to take part in the Success Regime process, but ultimately, more than any other issue, this is about money.

Make no mistake, government has the power to solve these problems.

We’re about to discover if it wants to, but I’ll do everything I can to ensure that it does.