STRUCTURE: North Cumbria University Hospitals will tomorrow take the first steps towards centralising all of its complex surgery onto one site, at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

The trust announced this afternoon that from 6 September all patients who require high risk surgery out of hours will have to have their operations at the Carlisle site. From 1 October, all high risk surgery in working hours will also be transferred to Carlisle.

North Cumbria was one of 14 trusts included in the Keogh review of providers with persistently high mortality rates. It manages two acute hospitals – the Cumberland Infirmary, and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven – which are a 45 minute to an hour drive apart.

A statement issued by the trust today said the decision to centralise complex surgery in Carlisle followed the Keogh review’s call for “urgent improvements to the quality and safety of care in North Cumbria”. It added that the trust estimated only two to three patients a week would have to be transferred to Carlisle from West Cumbria, where its second hospital is based.

North Cumbria interim medical director Jeremy Rushmer said focussing high risk surgery on one site meant “we can create more permanent and dedicated teams of specialist surgeons who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week”.

He added: “Concentrating complex and high risk surgery in Carlisle has been widely agreed for some time now and following Keogh it is an absolute clinical priority for us to deliver on these promises.”

The trust said the changes were in line with proposals agreed in the “Care Closer to Home” public consultation in 2009, and with NHS Cumbria’s 2011 clinical strategy, both of which “strongly recommended the centralisation of high risk, complex surgical care to improve both clinical outcomes and quality of care for patients”.

NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group deputy chair David Rogers said: “The Keogh review confirmed that things had to change at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust to improve on the quality of care that our patients receive.”

He added: “The move to have all complex surgery dealt with at Carlisle is being done to improve the care for our patients and ensure they have access to specialist surgical teams no matter what time of day or night they need treatment.”