HEALTH officials have today dismissed reports that ‘advanced plans’ already exist to shut Lancaster’s A&E and intensive care unit (ICU) and move them to Kendal’s Westmorland General Hospital.
Commenting on recent reports that Lancaster’s A&E is doomed to closure and serious emergency cases will shift to Kendal along with the city's intensive care unit, a spokeswoman for UHMBT stressed no such plans yet exist and no decisions have been made.
They explained a 'whole range of possibilities' are currently being discussed. But they said these would be developed into formal proposals and unveiled this spring, followed by thorough consulation taking place in the summer into autumn.
It follows a root-and-branch review which is currently being under taken across the health estate run by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust (UHMBT).
Starting last autumn, it is looking at the provision of services and where they might be based in future.
Lakes MP Tim Farron has already dubbed the review a genuine opportunity to bring acute A&E services to Kendal and is campaigning to do so. He has already written to dozens of local doctors to win support for the idea.
The ongoing review is part of the groundwork being under taken to pave the way for the arrival of new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCP).
The panels of GPs take control of deciding how and where local health services should be delivered from April.
These including planning and purchasing, and is part of Government policy which Whitehall says aims to put 'family doctors as opposed to NHS managers' in charge.
They are assuming responsibility from long-standing NHS primary care trusts which received their budget direct from the Department of Health and decided what to spend it on.
The CCPs must address a shortfall in funding so changes are said to be inevitable, although what these are has not yet been ascertained.
A spokeswoman for UHMBT said any proposals would firstly be subject to thorough consulation with a range of bodies, MPs and patients.
Only last week, UHMBT released details of its intended public consultation arrangements, saying: “During this formal public consultation, the public and stakeholders willl again be asked to consider which possible options for changing the way health services work across Morecambe Bay, they prefer.”
“The demands upon the NHS both nationally and locally are changing and the plan to look at health services across the area is a response to these growing needs.”
She said medical staff are participating in discussions centred on the review and talking with representatives of both Cumbria CCG and North Lancashire CCG, which will commission services across the Bay area, including the hospitals Kendal, Barrow and Lancaster.
The spokeswoman added: “The CCG’s are working with our doctors and nurses and a huge list of options will be created of how things could look. That could involve major changes but we have yet to see. Things will certainly not stay as they are as there is less money in the system.”
Jackie Daniel, Chief Executive, UHMBFT based at WGH, said: “Let’s be clear, despite what has been reported no decisions about how services may change or be developed have been made, but discussions about how services could be designed and operate and what people want and value most about health services, will help shape these decisions over the next few months.”