[A] report from the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) has reflected the challenges of providing anaesthetic services at two district general hospitals.
Following the ‘Healthcare for the Future’ public consultation and subsequent decisions taken by NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in March 2017, a review was commissioned in order to provide a more detailed look at anaesthetic arrangements for maternity provision at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.
The review which took place in April 2017 has provided independent clinical advice on the anaesthetic and critical care implications of the options for the future of maternity services with an emphasis on patient safety.
The report recognises the challenges in running an anaesthetic rota for intensive care and accident and emergency as well as for obstetric emergencies. The review team acknowledges the need to recruit more anaesthetists but also the difficulty in recruiting anaesthetists, particularly to ‘small maternity units with low activity rates’.
The review team looked at the three options for maternity services as they were presented during the public consultation and details their safe staffing recommendations as well as the positive and negative aspects of each option. The decision relating to maternity services was referred to the Secretary of State in March 2017.
Dr Rod Harpin, medical director and consultant anaesthetist at North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust, said: “We are really grateful to the Royal College for spending time in both the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital and seeing the challenges we face. It is reassuring that they haven’t found anything that we weren’t already aware of, but it does confirm the challenges we face in establishing a sustainable anaesthetics rota which is an essential service in providing consultant-led maternity services.”
Dr David Rogers, medical director at NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It was very helpful that members of the Royal College were able to spend time at both hospitals and see for themselves the challenges we face and experience the journey between the two hospital sites. They were able to look at the Royal College standards and assess the way we deliver care in intensive care services as acceptable. They have also identified some issues which we have been highlighting as challenging for some time.”