A future for Alston hospital
MUCH attention is likely to be focused on proposals to downgrade maternity services in West Cumbria when key decision-makers meet next week to ponder how to make the NHS in the county sustainable for the future in view of an annual £70 million overspend which is forecast to get even higher.
What they decide will have huge implications throughout Cumbria, not just in the west of the county, as important an issue as maternity provision is, and it is also likely to be D-day for the future of some community hospitals, including those at Alston, Penrith and Keswick.
There has been vociferous opposition to any cutting of inpatient beds at community hospitals in view of the vital role the establishments play in the provision of healthcare.
It is perhaps the hospital at Alston which is most at risk from plans for the future, but the local community has sought to stave off that threat by coming up with its own imaginative proposals which should be met with approval by the governing body of Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group.
The plan is to build a new integrated centre for healthcare on the site of Alston hospital at which a team of people would look after not just NHS patients but social care referrals. It would mean a blurring of the demarcation lines between an NHS bed and a social care bed, but that would be no bad thing given the financial crisis facing both sectors.
A new-build centre would not be cheap, of course. But we are told the proposals drawn up by the Success Regime are not just about saving money and, given its isolated location, the local community’s plan to secure the future of Alston hospital, which has cared for local people for more than a hundred years, is worthy of further investigation at the very least.