Health trust changes will not be put to public

Date: Tuesday 9th October 2018

THE public will not be formally consulted over plans to merge two of Cumbria’s biggest health trusts, it has been revealed.

Top level talks have been taking place since July between health bosses to create a new organisation from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust (NCUHT).

At a meeting in Kendal on Monday, trust representatives appeared before Cumbria County Council’s health scrutiny committee to answer questions.

Health bosses said there is no requirement to go out to the public because the proposals do not affect services — it only proposes changes to the management body in charge.

Committee member Helen Horne (Lab, Yewdale, Carlisle) said: “This is a big deal for everybody and a lot of the public won’t understand it. There’s so much good you could tell people about this process.”

Daniel Scheffer, company secretary for CPFT, said the merger would not result in any “clinical” change for patients. He said the trusts planned to “engage” with stakeholders, although in the NHS, engagement is not the same as a full public consultation.

Committee chairman Claire Driver (Lab, Alston and East Fellside) asked that the committee be given sight of any engagement plan.

It was also revealed that the timetable for talks, which started in July, has also slipped by a month. Instead of three potential options being on the table, these had now grown to five.

Councillor Phil Dew (Con, Kirkby Stephen) commented that health bosses had not made a “quantum leap” in progress.

Carni McCarron-Holmes (Lab, Maryport North) questioned whether the merger stemmed from the “deep financial” problems in the NHS.

Health officials said regulators demanded that any merger would improve quality for patients. Mr Scheffer said: “The number one driver for both organisations is about improving health and care.”

A report before the committee, said: “The trusts are clear that any such proposals must be able to demonstrates how any transaction (merger) will deliver improved care for patients.” Councillor Mark Wilson (Lab, Ulverston East) questioned whether it would make things “better and safer”.

Councillor Vivienne Rees (Lib Dem, Ambleside and Grasmere) was concerned the change could leave gaps in services, which would only come to light in an “awful crisis".

Currently, the two trusts share a joint chief executive, a joint leadership board, and non-executive directors.

The final proposal is expected in May, 2019, with any new set-up effective from October, 2019.

The aim would be to improve efficiency, reduce duplication and slash bureaucracy.

Any merger agreed would hinge on approval from the regulator, NHS Improvement.

The CPFT is based in Penrith but delivers services to half-a-million people across Cumbria, and employs 4,000 people across 20 different sites. The NCUHT runs the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven.

CPFT provides services such as health visiting, children’s community nursing, district nursing, neurology, autism, and learning disabilities.

Across the two hospitals, services are provided such as A&E, cancer, stroke and maternity, as well as dermatology ear, nose and throat, and rheumatology.