NHS Beds To Close In Cumbria As Health Care Plans Are Finalised

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Final drafts of the alternative plans for the provision of health & care in Alston Moor, Maryport, and Wigton & Solway are being shared with the community alliances and staff this week ahead of submission to the CCG governing body for approval next month.

Plans have been drawn up by alliances made up of representatives of the community, County Council and NHS staff following the decision last year by NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group to close the inpatient beds at Alston, Maryport & Wigton Hospitals.

The plans include indicative timelines for closing the beds in a phased way between April and October 2018, although this timeline will need to be flexible to take into account dependencies such as workforce and building work.

In all cases alternatives will be in place as beds are closed and include boosting the provision of community and therapy resources, using residential beds as intermediate beds for health purposes and increasing activity being able to take place at the hospitals during the day.

Stephen Eames, Chief Executive of Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said, “This has been a complex piece of work and has involved us working in a very different way from usual. Each of the communities are very different and have their own unique requirements and it’s fair to say they were all initially opposed to the beds closing with many still having that view. However with the decision now being made it is very positive that representatives have worked with us to draw up alternative workable plans that will enable us to provide more care within communities.”

At Alston beds have been temporarily closed for some time due to staffing shortages and they are already operating a community model which is working well and is supported by the Alston Moor alliance.

Claire Driver, County Councillor for Alston Moor and East Fellside is a member of the Alston Moor Alliance who held an open day to share the initial proposals with the community. She said “We are so grateful to all the people who came to the open day to talk about the plans and also to all those people who took the time to write or email their thoughts. As a group we are determined that this plan is something that belongs to the people of Alston Moor and not simply something that is being given to us.

“The feedback we got was really helpful and pointed out some things that were missing from the plans – such as the use of apprentices – and also highlighted where more explanation was needed.”

At Wigton, alternative plans are to enhance the community provision and use six beds at Inglewood as intermediate beds. Plans include undertaking refurbishment work at Inglewood in order to ensure that the rooms are fit for health purposes. Initial proposals were shared with the community and an event held in the town saw members of the public attend and provide feedback.

Eveline Dugdale, from Wigton League of Friends and part of the Solway Alliance who has played a key role in the plans said:

“We have worked very hard to develop these plans in the Wigton and Solway area; they offer a different way of working and offer a good framework for health and care services to be delivered. The plans have a focus on providing care in the community and avoiding hospital admission as much as possible.”

At Maryport alternative plans are to enhance the community provision, use two beds at Parkside residential home as intermediate beds and enhance community working and activity at the hospital.

Professor John Howarth, Deputy CEO of Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said, “By working together with staff and community representatives we have been able to come up with alternative plans that I believe will see more activity taking place at the hospital. It’s not always been easy and we know that there is still a lot of ill feeling about the bed closures but what is really positive is that the community groups there are already taking a lot of action to support improved health and wellbeing in the area.”

Feedback collected from the community is included in the all of the final plans being submitted to the NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Body.

As part of the broader community hospital strategy, refurbishments at Keswick and Brampton are also being planned and due to the extent of the work required, inpatient beds at those hospitals will need to close while refurbishments take place.

Options to ensure that bed numbers across North Cumbria can be maintained while refurbishments take place are being discussed and include using the empty space at Wigton as a decant facility.