AN NHS Trust has reassured campaigners who raised concerns over the provision of haematology services in west Cumbria.

Members of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital campaign group have written to Lyn Simpson, chief executive of the NHS Foundation Trust, after seeing a job advert for a haematology consultant, which stated that consultants work predominately at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

Campaigners say this would mean that new patients will not be seen at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and there are currently no face-to-face consultations held there.

The North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust has said that the advert ‘accurately reflects the position’ and all new patients are seen in Carlisle for initial assessment, while more complex cases may have continuing care there.

In the letter to Lyn Simpson, campaigners say: “We have said many times that centralising services in an area like ours is not the solution to providing the health care we need and deserve in west Cumbria.

“Statistics show that the population of Copeland and Allerdale is 165,950 and in Carlisle and Eden the figure is 161,268 so the total of west Cumbria residents are more than equal to east Cumbria. 

“Failure to provide equitable health care to more than half of the people under your jurisdiction is totally unacceptable. 

“A fully functioning hospital is vital for the health and wellbeing of the people of west Cumbria. As the much-respected Mahesh Dhebar said at a recent public meeting “Don’t turn West Cumberland Hospital into the biggest cottage hospital in the country.”

A spokesperson for the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “The recent advert for a Haematology consultant accurately reflects the position.

“Our Haematology clinicians work as a team across North Cumbria, but their base is at the Cumberland Infirmary. All new patients are seen in Carlisle for initial assessment and agreement of treatment programmes.

“More complex cases, requiring specialist support, may have their continuing care at the Cumberland Infirmary. This has been the case for many years.

“Where routine follow up appointments or treatments are required, they may be delivered in other locations or virtually. A specialist haematology nurse is based permanently at the West Cumberland Hospital providing many treatments such as transfusions, iron, immunoglobulins and oral chemotherapy at WCH.

“We have recently appointed a further Band 5 nurse to support this work. Many of these treatments are also provided in our community hospitals. Consultants are always available to support patient care across the Trust.

“The recent advert was necessary because of the retirement of Dr Jones who through his time with us worked across the Carlisle and Whitehaven sites. Despite the considerable challenges of recruiting to this specialty, I am pleased to tell that a new haematology consultant will join us in October to strengthen the team.

“On completion of the Phase 2 redevelopment, the Trust will have invested over £140m in modernising the West Cumberland Hospital.

"Describing this fantastic facility as a ‘cottage hospital’ is not helpful to our recruitment efforts, damages the morale of our hardworking staff, and misleads the people of west Cumbria.”