|Tim Farron and team: vascular services|
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced yesterday that they would move to three regional sites, meaning the Royal Lancaster Infirmary will no longer offer on-site support for people suffering with circulatory problems - a decision Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron described as "ludicrous", but one which both local Tory MPs appear to have accepted, although Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw supported the campaign to retain them.
People needing such services - often after heart attacks and strokes - will now have to travel to Carlisle, Preston or Blackburn, with the three sites serving the whole of Cumbria and Lancashire, plus parts of Greater Manchester and South West Scotland.
"There is a strong clinical case for the concentration of vascular services in Cumbria and Lancashire at three sites," said Mr Farron in repsonse to the announcement, "but is it not ludicrous that the three that have been chosen are so geographically located that one is virtually on the Scottish border, then there is a gap of almost 100 miles, and then there are two that are nine miles apart?
"Does not that leave south Cumbria and north Lancashire dangerously under-provided for? Given the current difficulties, shall we say, at Morecambe Bay, does not robbing Morecambe Bay of those skills and that expertise make a difficult situation potentially even worse?"
But Jeremy Hunt was unrepentant. "I know that my honorable Friend has campaigned, rightly, to represent the concerns of his constituents about the extra travel that they will have to undertake," he responded. "I would like to reassure him that we considered that issue very carefully.
"The Independent Reconfiguration Panel recognises that travel is a consideration, but also believes that for his constituents, even for the people who have to travel further, there will be better clinical outcomes for specialist vascular surgery," he argued. "We are talking about not routine surgery, diagnosis or rehabilitation work but conditions such as aneurysms and carotid artery disease which require specialist care. Patients can get much better help if that is concentrated in specialist centres.
"As to why those particular centres were chosen, it was a genuinely difficult decision. There is a bigger concentration of population in the south of the region and there is also more social deprivation and more unmet need. I know it was a difficult decision, but it was decided that that would be best for the 2.8 million people in the area and also better for my honorable Friend’s constituents."
“I am completely dismayed by this decision and outraged by the total disregard shown to rural communities in South Cumbria and North Lancashire," Mr Farron says.
“This decision to move vascular services from Morecambe Bay will have dangerous consequences.
"This decision to move vascular services from Morecambe Bay will have dangerous consequences. Our vascular services unit has not only developed a local reputation but also a national one and removing these services hugely undermines the Trust's efforts to recover. I am incredibly disappointed that the health ministers have let us down."
“I am incredibly disappointed that the health ministers have let us down.”
Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock feels Mr Hunt had not done enough to reassure patients. : “Families from across South Cumbria who rely on the life-saving specialist vascular services provided at Royal Lancaster Infirmary will be dismayed by the government's decision to make them to travel all the way to Preston, Blackburn or Carlisle to get treatment.
“The medical evidence we presented was clear and the secretary of state has not done nearly enough to show that that vascular patients will not be put at risk by his very disappointing decision.”
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, campaigned against the move but its legal bid to stop services being moved was rejected earlier this year.