• Health secretary will have final say over maternity reconfiguration proposed by success regime
  • Cumbria CCG agreed changes to acute and community services last week
  • County council has now referred the CCG’s decision over maternity services to Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt will have the final say over whether service reforms in one of the country’s most troubled health economies go ahead.

Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group agreed a number of acute and community service reconfigurations last week on the back of the region’s success regime consultation.

Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle

Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle

Source: Simon Ledingham

The CCG wants to maintain a consultant led unit at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle

The decisions included maintaining a consultant led maternity units at West Cumberland Hospital and Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, but if this is not sustainable after 12 months to switch to a midwife led unit at West Cumberland.

However, last night Cumbria county council’s health scrutiny committee voted to refer the plans to the health secretary and ask him to overturn this decision.

The committee approved the rest of the CCG’s plans.

CCG chief executive Stephen Childs said this morning that he was pleased the councillors approved the rest of the reconfiguration plans.

He added: “We fully respect the decision of Cumbria county council’s health scrutiny committee to refer the [CCG] governing body’s decision on maternity to the secretary of state. We will play a full part as the process becomes clear.

“We will now start planning and we will involve and update the community as that work progresses. No changes will take place until the services can be transitioned safely unless for safety or operational reasons.”

Health scrutiny committee chair Neil Hughes said members were concerned:

  • that the CCG could decide over the future of the maternity unit at West Cumberland without further consultation;
  • about the distance pregnant women would travel between west Cumbria and Carlisle if the unit at West Cumberland is closed; and
  • that proposals for a dedicated ambulance to transport them were not sufficient.

He added: “Whilst the committee appreciate the amount of work undertaken by the CCG and its partners in carrying out an extensive consultation exercise, members concluded that the decision regarding maternity services reached by the governing body was not in the best interests of the health services of the area”

The west, north and east Cumbria success regime is one of three projects to tackle troubled health economies announced by Simon Stevens in 2015. The other two are in Devon and Essex

Cumbria CCG’s governing body also agreed to:

  • develop an inpatient paediatrics unit for the region at Cumberland Infirmary, while having just a short stay assessment unit and some beds at West Cumberland;
  • reduce community hospital beds from 133 to 104, phasing out the beds at three units;
  • maintain 24/7 accident and emergency services at both sites; and
  • develop a hyper-acute stroke unit at Cumberland Infirmary.

All the decisions except the maternity plans were in line with the success regime’s preferred options. There was public protest against the initially proposed closure of the consultant led unit in Whitehaven.

The success regime forms part of the region’s sustainability and transformation plans, which aims to prevent a predicted £163m overspend by 2020.

The success regime reconfigurations are expected to save around £2m.