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Mixed message over hospitals

Date: Tuesday 14th March 2017

THERE are two ways of looking at the stay of execution for the seven inpatient beds at Alston hospital which was announced this week by the governors of Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group.

One is that it is merely delaying the inevitable and in a year’s time the beds will still be axed, delivering a devastating blow to the Alston community which remains committed to its local hospital.

The other is that those behind the imaginative proposals for a 26-bed fully integrated health and care centre for Alston Moor have been given more valuable time in which to make their ideas watertight and financially viable.

With the right backing, Alston could become the centre of excellence for health and social care that Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Success Regime, says is part of the overall vision for rural communities.

Without it, the prognosis seems bleak for an isolated place where the sustainability of the community goes hand in hand with the sustainability of its hospital.

There was better news for Keswick, where hospital beds have not only been saved but their number increased from 12 to 16. Mayor David Burn has rightly hailed it as a great day for the Lakeland town, saying that the outcome was a victory for both common sense and people power. The concerted effort made there by residents concerned about their hospital’s future has certainly paid dividends.

What the future holds for both Alston and its hospital is less clear, but the retention of beds must remain a rallying cry.

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