Investing in health

Date: Monday 24th July 2017

AFTER all the uncertainty prompted by the Success Regime’s review into the sustainability of health services in Cumbria, this week’s announcement that more than £65 million is to be spent on badly needed improvements is a welcome boost.

The larger proportion of the money is rightly being allocated to the county’s two acute hospitals, in Carlisle and Whitehaven, which have been experiencing difficulties for some time.

The benefits of the investment in the Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital are immediately obvious, particularly in the Carlisle hospital, where a new cancer centre is to be created which should result in 95 per cent. of patients with suspected cancer receiving a diagnosis within four weeks. Cancer survival rates are expected to increase.

Less obvious, however, is the effect of the money — “up to” £5 million — that is being pumped into the development of integrated care communities (ICCs) to bring services closer to home.

The ICCs are designed to bring together numerous strands of the NHS so people are supported closer to where they live. However, their conception was greeted with scepticism during the Success Regime’s public consultation exercise, mainly because the closure of beds in community hospitals was being talked about at the same time.

The future role of those hospitals remains unclear. Their devoted supporters will hope that, once further details of the plans for ICCs have emerged, the community hospitals will remain fundamental to the provision of health care in the county for years to come.