A PUBLIC meeting will be held to discuss the provision of emergency care in west Cumbria with the shadow health secretary.

Josh MacAlister, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Whitehaven and Workington, has organised the meeting with Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for health and social care and Mahesh Dhebar, of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital campaign group.

It comes after The Whitehaven News reported recent staff shortages at the A&E department of West Cumberland Hospital, which could mean that the NHS Trust is unable to provide appropriate overnight cover in the future.

North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) NHS Foundation Trust said it has not yet had to implement its business continuity plan and  is “absolutely not planning to close the A&E department at West Cumberland Hospital.”

Mr MacAlister has said he is “wholly opposed” to any suggestion of losing a 24/7 A&E department and he has also written to the chief executive of the trust to demand urgent answers to questions he has on the issue.

In the letter to Lyn Simpson, chief executive of the NCIC NHS Foundation Trust, Mr MacAlister said: “I am getting in touch to seek urgent clarity from you about the status of the A&E department at West Cumberland Hospital.

“In a recent report in the Whitehaven News, a spokesperson for your Trust stated that "there is a risk that we may be unable to provide appropriate overnight cover in the future" at A&E.

“The only conclusion I can draw from this is that there is a possibility that the A&E department may be forced to close in the evenings if the staffing crisis cannot be resolved.

“I know how hard your staff are working and how difficult the workforce pressures must be. This is a national issue due to an NHS workforce crisis overseen by the current government, and I can promise that if elected I will do everything in my power to ensure that Labour's plan to recruit more doctors and nurses sees West Cumbria benefit.”

People are encouraged to attend the public meeting, which will take place at Whitehaven Civic Hall on Thursday, August 10, at 4pm.

Registration is essential: joshforwestcumbria.co.uk/saveourae