Sir Neil Mackay gives update on Community Hospitals and the Success Regime.

Sir Neil McKay the chair of the Success Regime- the body that is overseeing the restructure of north Cumbria’s health and care system, has been in the county listening to the views of local people.

He met and spoke to members of the Save our Beds group in Maryport alongside local MP Sue Hayman and the chief executive of the organisation that runs the community hospitals, Claire Molloy.

Local people were given the chance to ask Sir Neil questions about the current thinking regarding the future of community hospitals.

Sir Neil explained that the proposed development of what are known as ‘Integrated Care Communities’ (ICCs) would mean that there wouldn’t be the demand for the beds in the community that there currently is:

“ICCs would develop teams of professional staff to work together locally with their own budget. There is a huge mountain of evidence that if you set up these teams you can massively reduce the amount of people going to hospital and we have actually see that in Millom, Workington and in Cockermouth. We are confident that this process will mean we will need fewer hospital beds.”

He went on to explain that currently the thinking is that the beds would be taken out of Maryport, Wigton and Alston and intensive investment would be given to enable teams to provide bespoke support in the community.

He said: “We genuinely believe that we can use the hospitals better and I promise that all the community hospitals will see a significant investment into the services they provide.”

Claire Molloy explained to those present that the changes that were needed in community hospitals were not related to finance.

She said: “Changes in community hospitals are not about money, the amount of money saved from the proposed changes to beds in community hospitals is relatively small in comparison with the amount needed. What it is about is improving the quality and services. Over the last six months we have been flexing beds across all our community hospitals. We never have all our beds open across the patch and that’s because of the staffing issues we face in Cumbria.”

The shortage of registered nurses is a national issue as well as a local one and Claire appealed to the audience to help find a way that we can make the ICC model work in Maryport. She said:

“What I want to do is to examine, in place based sessions, what is the art of the possible? What can we do? Can we do some work over the next few weeks before public consultation starts? Can we do some work with you over the next few weeks to find out what it could look like? We need to have confidence that if there isn’t a bed what will happen. I am personally sponsoring this work over the next few weeks.”

Many people in the meeting remained concerned, a former nurse spoke out saying that nurses in her day had more structured breaks and had more pride in their jobs saying : “Give them their pride back and you’ll get their smile back.”

Another delegate explained his concerns for those at the end of their lives, saying: “It is crucial to have this service locally; there will always be a need for end of life and respite care.”

Claire Molloy gave agreement and explained that respite and end of life care, and how that is delivered locally, needs to be part of the discussions that she wants to lead before the public consultation.

One delegate expressed their concern relating to transport links for Maryport and how difficult getting to the closest ‘bed’ actually would be if there were none in Maryport.

He said: “Getting from A to B is very difficult, 36% of the local community has no access to public transport. Also we carried out an experiment to find out how long it would take to visit someone in Cockermouth and it took over an hour on a bus and in the time it got you there you only have 20 minutes visiting left – and that’s before you have walked up the hill to the actual hospital!”

Sir Neil was visibly shocked at this and offered a little reassurance:

“We have a whole system looking at transport, and looking at communities and transport links. We are able to share this if you are part of the work that Claire [Molloy] is doing.”

Sue Hayman MP explained that she has repeatedly tried to get a meeting with a transport secretary to discuss the transport infrastructure in her constituency:

“I have been working with John Stevenson MP [for Carlisle] to try and arrange a meeting, I feel it is important because it is a cross party issue, and Sir Neil if you have any influence on helping make that meeting happen we would be grateful.”

Kate Whitmarsh from the Ewanrigg Local Trust offered to come on board with the conversations and to provide Claire with other names that could be involved in developing the Maryport model.

Kate said: “I am still worried but I am more optimistic that we are being encouraged to take part in these discussions to shape the services for our area and I am looking forward to those discussions.”

More information regarding the Success Regime can be found here