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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Retired hospital surgeon fears two-tier health service

A RETIRED West Cumberland Hospital surgeon is questioning the motives of Northumbria Healthcare after hundreds of operations have been moved from Carlisle to a hospital across the county border – losing a Cumbrian NHS trust £3.5m.

West Cumberland Hospital photo
West Cumberland Hospital

By Pamela McGowan

The move has sparked a fierce debate, with health chiefs insisting that shifting more than 750 hip and knee procedures out of Cumbria to Hexham was in the best interests of patients and meant the surgery could be done quicker.

Mahesh Dhebar believes that instead of helping, the West Cumberland Hospital and Cumberland Infirmary – which are facing a deficit of £27m this year – are now finding themselves worse off financially than they were before.

Mr Dhebar, who retired in November, is concerned about the number of patients being sent to Hexham for knee and hip replacements, with income from these lucrative procedures going into Northumbria’s coffers.

Northumbria Healthcare was chosen by previous bosses as the preferred partner to acquire the struggling Cumbrian hospitals.

Official figures from Cumbria’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) show that in the past 12 months, more than 750 Cumbrian patients had hip and knee procedures in Hexham, resulting in more than £3.5m leaving the county.

Bosses insist that all decisions are being taken purely with patients at heart, to reduce waiting lists and improve safety and quality of services. They say that as a result of their close working relationship with Hexham, the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for orthopedic surgery dropped from 315 in January 2013 to 154 by December 2013.

But Mr Dhebar fears this is the thin end of the wedge, with Northumbria currently building an expensive new emergency care hospital in Cramlington, Northumberland. He believes a two-tier healthcare system is already beginning to emerge – with staff and services gradually being moved out of the West Cumberland Hospital to Carlisle.

“What they are planning to do is move services from Whitehaven to Carlisle, then Carlisle to North Tyneside,” he claims. “This should not be allowed to happen. I don’t believe they are a good partner. At the moment they are asset-stripping. I think they should go, and we should be left to deal with our own problems here in North Cumbria.”

In a joint statement, the two trusts said: “We are extremely disappointed that a retired clinician does not support the vast improvements taking place.

“It is baffling how anyone could think it’s a bad thing for patients to be treated promptly, to a high standard and to their satisfaction. Without our trusts working together, this reduction in waiting times would not have happened.”

Have your say

Its not just Orthopaedic cases they are planning to move. Discussions are taking place about sending ophthalmology patients to Southport for surgery.

Posted by Rather not say on 10 April 2014 at 09:23

In the grand master plan Carlisle was supposed to be treating more Trauma patients and West Cumberland increasing their elective operations, especially orthopaedic procedures. Doesn't look like that is happening does it?Surgical beds are about to be cut again why? we have perfectly good surgical theatres and staffing it is such a shame for the people of west cumbria that they are having to travel miles for their surgery when there are perfectly good facilities on their doorstep.Everyone has been saying if we don't act soon we will lose west cumberland hospital - well i'm afraid it's too late now.

Posted by janet on 7 April 2014 at 01:39

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