Intervention from the Cumbria Health and Well-being Scrutiny Committee has caused local NHS managers to rethink their plans for mental health bed provision at West Cumberland Hospital.
Members of the committee and local representatives have been examining proposed developments at West Cumberland Hospital for the last 18 months, raising any concerns on behalf of the local community in West Cumbria.
The group were alarmed to discover that plans to replace current mental health beds on Yewdale Ward had floundered and that there was no clear plan for provision to continue on site if Yewdale Ward was demolished as planned this autumn. Relocation was only identified as becoming available at the end of the project in 2012. This could have meant people in the area needing this help having to be admitted to beds in Carlisle or possibly Barrow, both over 40 miles away. These concerns were shared by the governing body of the Cumbria LINK, who formerly referred the matter to the committee.
The committee recognised that this mental health provision was unusual as the Cumbria Partnership Trust was effectively renting space on an acute hospital site run by North Cumbria Universities Hospital Trust. However, the committee also felt that transferring the service, even for a temporary period, would create significant travel and cost problems to local residents and would amount to reneging on previous commitments made by the NHS locally to maintain mental health bed provision in West Cumbria. There was also a danger that temporary relocation might lead to provision never returning to the area.
The committee therefore referred its concerns to the Strategic Health Authority, calling on the Partnership Trust, Acute Trust and the Primary Care Trust (NHS Cumbria) to resolve this issue, indicating that further steps would be taken if a positive outcome did not occur. The committee was therefore delighted when an early commitment was given to find a resolution that kept mental provision on site. The trusts have now identified space in existing provision to replace Yewdale Ward and this move is now planned for summer 2011. Inevitably this plan has impacted on other project plans but alternatives have been identified across the site and staff involved have all been consulted on these changes.
Cllr Geoff Garrity, Copeland District Councillor and Chairman of the local task group, said: "I am delighted that our concerns about maintaining mental health provision on our local hospital site have been listened to."
Cllr Bill Wearing, Chairman of the Health and Well-being scrutiny Committee, said: "Our committee has developed a good relationship based on trust with the NHS locally, which also allows us to challenge and influence their plans. I am pleased that we have been able to secure such a positive outcome for the people of West Cumbria."
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