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Campaigners threaten legal action over health vote

Campaigners are angry about a chaotic meeting on key health issues Credit: ITV Border

Campaigners may seek legal advice about a chaotic end to a key council meeting they say could have saved health services in Cumbria.

On Wednesday Cumbria’s health scrutiny comittee meeting met all day to discuss plans for a radical shake up in community hospitals and care for sick children in West Cumbria - but four councillors left before a final vote at the end of the meeting.

Earlier the committee had voted to reject three key proposals: closing community hospital beds in Wigton, Alston and Maryport; downgrading paediatrics in Whitehaven; and plans for maternity services in west Cumbria.

But once the four councillors left there committe carried out its final votes which saw a u-turn on hospital beds and pediatric care.

Now campaigners are demanding an investigation into the meeting and fresh vote.

In a strongly worded letter to Katherine Fairclough, chief executive of the County Council, the We Need West Cumberland Hospital Group is threatening legal action on the issue.

The decisions taken on Wednesday are a matter of life and death for the people of West Cumbria. We are shocked that the future of our health care has been handled and determined in such a shoddy and chaotic manner and we demand an investigation into the events of the day. If we don’t receive a satisfactory answer and conclusion to our request to refer Paediatrics to the Secretary of State we will seek legal advice on the matter.

– We Need West Cumberland Hospital Group

It added:

The day ended in chaos with three councillors leaving believing their part had been played and they were not eligible to vote in the next part of the meeting. A fourth councillor left citing distance of travel, weather conditions and family matters If they had been present and voted it is clear the result regarding Paediatrics would have been very different to the one taken at the end of the meeting.

– We Need West Cumberland Hospital Group

Campaigners fighting to save community hospital beds in Wigton, Maryport and Alston are also demanding a revote.

One of the councillors who missed the end of the meeting was Carni McCarron-Holmes, Labour councillor for Maryport North, who said she thought only county councillors were eligible to take part in the final vote.

“I have no idea why or what happened. The whole thing is a total farce,” she said.