Health watchdogs in Cumbria have given their approval for the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust to progress to the next stage of its overhaul of acute medical services in the Morecambe Bay area.
At a meeting of the Cumbria Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee yesterday, councillors agreed that a set of criteria had now been met which means that some patients with certain rare acute clinical conditions who would have previously been cared for at Westmorland General Hospital can now be transferred to Royal Lancaster Infirmary or Furness General Hospital. They also agreed that alternative arrangements are now in place so that Ward 11 at Westmorland General Hospital can be closed - something which is now likely to happen in late February or early March.
The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust originally closed the 24-bed Ward 11 on October 3 2007 as part of its acute medical services review but then reopened it following concerns from the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Cumbria County Council and Lancashire County Council that there were inadequate alternative arrangements.
The scrutiny meeting has confirmed that councillors are now satisfied that conditions for two out of four 'break points' have been met. The remaining two break points are for a second ward at Westmorland General Hospital to be closed and then for the full change over to the new model, which will involve the closure of the hospital's coronary care unit and two other medical wards to be closed plus the implentation of a round-the-clock Primary Care Assessment Service. Scrutiny members, GPs and clinicians will be fully consulted and informed before it is agreed that conditions for the final two break points have been met.
Councillor Jeff Garnett, the Cumbria Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee member who chaired the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said:
"We are now satisfied that this major review can move to the next stage. The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust have met the criteria laid out which have ensured that no lives have been put at risk. This has been a difficult time for people working at the hospital and the issue has also aroused a great deal of local feeling. But there is a spirit of co-operation between GPs, clinicians, councillors and the NHS Trust which mean this process is being managed sensibly and safely."
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