“Let’s ensure that every voice is heard”

Roger PUTNAM  Vice-Chair, West Cumbria Liberal Democrats
(writing in the Whitehaven News)
Picture – Liberal Democrats Rebecca Hanson and Roger Putnam at the Success Regime Consultation in Whitehaven 19th October 2016.
I want to support the recent pleas by Chris Whiteside and Jamie Reed in this column to urge all local folk to make their voices heard, loud and clear, on the Success Regime report into our health services in West Cumbria. We should all endorse the excellent “Save our Services” campaign by this paper and your sister papers to demand a fundamental rethink here. Local Liberal Democrats strongly support the campaign to maintain full maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital and to retain stroke patient care. To do otherwise would be unsafe and discriminatory.
Recent public meetings in Whitehaven showed massive support for retaining these services at WCH. The strength of feeling has been overwhelming, especially amongst those working in the hospital maternity department. The vital need now is for all who participated to reply in good time to the Consultation ending on December 9th. I hope too that all community organisations will register their full backing for the campaign. If they all do this, then there is a chance that the Success Regime will eventually see sense.
We have a brand new hospital, and yet it is still unclear what services it will provide. What a ludicrous situation! It reflects the chaos into which the NHS has fallen nationally in recent years. At the heart of the problem across the country is that we have not yet found an effective method of managing and financing the NHS to meet the changing needs of the 21st century. The total NHS deficit for 2015/2016 reached some £3.5 bn. There has to be a radical review of health-care and a recognition that substantial additional funding is needed, targeted especially to areas like ours with real disadvantages of poverty and remoteness.
That is why the Liberal Democrats are establishing an independent review body, similar to the pioneering Beveridge committee of the 1940s which proposed the creation of the NHS as the central feature of the Welfare State. This will examine the whole problem of health and social care provision at the national level, and explore ways of properly funding what is now needed. However this cannot happen overnight. The only answer as an immediate course of action is to allocate substantial new resources to the existing NHS if it is not to be irreparably damaged. I believe that there is now only one realistic course and that is to increase taxation specifically to retain and improve NHS services before they disappear.
Recent public meetings have emphasised the problem of recruiting staff at our hospitals. I recognise that this is a national rather than a local problem and it reflects a wider dissatisfaction with current NHS management and organisation. However recruitment at WCH is especially adversely affected by the ongoing uncertainties about the future of our local hospital. Senior staff will not be tempted to seek jobs where that future is so unclear.
Having spent a week-end in the WCH recently, I must pay tribute to those outstanding staff who give selfless support to their patients, despite current uncertainty and shortage of resources. They will all be hoping for a maximum public response to the present consultation. So make sure to send in your views!

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