THE POLITICS COLUMN for Whitehaven News and Times & Star, to be published July 24th and 26th 2019
Across West Cumbria there will be joy and relief that 24-hour consultant-led maternity services will be retained at our hospital for the foreseeable future. With this comes a guarantee that anaesthetics and paediatrics will also remain in Whitehaven.
Huge credit is due to both the campaigning groups; to all who worked so hard in the Co-production Forums; to my cross-party colleagues on Health Scrutiny at the County Council; and of course to our outstanding NHS staff from midwives on the front line to many senior bosses, who have all worked to maintain and improve services throughout two years of uncertainty. Without that constant effort, the outcome might well have been very different.
Despite this good news, we must continue to maintain careful vigilance in the future, because this is where we were in 2006, when we last saved our local maternity services. The root causes of our concerns have still not been addressed at national level. The NHS does not have regulatory standards for rural healthcare. National recruitment crises, made worse by Brexit, will continue to cause serious problems, not easily fixed in those areas furthest from our major teaching hospitals. And we are still living in an age where NHS top bosses will not properly acknowledge the risks associated with women being at a distance from consultant-led maternity care.
So what do we need to do? We need to lobby central government on all these NHS issues, which have caused havoc in West Cumbria. The NHS remains under-funded and poorly managed at government level. The problems increasingly evident in the provision of social care, which cause great difficulties for the NHS, have not been addressed despite the promise of the long-awaited white paper from Government.
These problems cannot be tackled when our two major parties are riven by internal differences.
I have only been able to do substantial work on health issues because of the support of my own party, the Liberal Democrats; people who pay their membership fees to fund this activity and have worked hard to get me elected. They have taught me so much from their front-line roles in local government across the country, their involvement in UK policy-making, and their access to experts at national level who understand our concerns and will continue to represent us properly at Westminster under our new leader. We welcome all our new members who are enabling us to do even more.
Cllr Rebecca Hanson