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Postcard campaign bids to secure maternity services in west Cumbria

West Cumberland Hospital Photo: ITV Border

Residents in west Cumbria are being urged to share their views with health bosses on consultant-led maternity care at the West Cumberland Hospital.

The 'Our Future is in Your Hands' postcard campaign follows the start of a 12-month countdown to recruit staff and determine the future of the service.

The We Need West Cumberland Hospital Group is behind the latest campaign, holding health bosses to account for the unit's future.

From April 1 Whitehaven hospital's consultant-led maternity unit has one year to prove that it can become safe and sustainable.

This time period will determine whether specialists stay at the hospital or be centralised at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary.

The new campaign urges residents to write their views on postcards, which will be sent directly to health bosses.

The We Need West Cumberland Hospital Group postcards Credit: We Need West Cumberland Hospital

The postcards show pictures of Stephen Eames, the chief executive of North Cumbria NHS Trust, and Stephen Childs, the former chief executive of NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - who left his post on Saturday.

The group wants to make it clear that the future of consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital is in the hands of the two health bosses.

They say that the sudden announcement that Stephen Childs is leaving his role at the CCG at this crucial time is "yet another indication of the chaotic way health services in west Cumbria are being run".

Retired surgeon Mahesh Dhebar, of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital group, said:

I think the Trust and the CCG are conducting their recruitment campaign the wrong way round.

Instead of saying we will run consultant led maternity IF we can recruit and this has to be proved sustainable in 12 months, they should publicly state that we WILL provide a consultant led maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital for at least the next three years.”

– Mahesh Dhebar, retired surgeon

Fellow campaigner Rachel Holliday said:

We do not accept that 12 months is an adequate period of time to complete a recruitment campaign. It is backward thinking to advertise positions at WCH with an artificial time limit on the services. We say continue with the model we have which is working well while recruitment gets underway.”

– Rachel Holliday, campaigner ,We Need West Cumberland Hospital Group

The campaign group added:

We want the people of west Cumbria to put their messages on our specially printed postcards and we will make sure that their thoughts about services at our hospital and the twelve month countdown for maternity are heard.”