Thursday, 1 December 2016
We then went into the meeting to join campaigners from west Cumbria, Alston and Carlisle and elsewhere, who tackled the 5-member panel on the options for healthcare services presented in their document, all of which involve cuts to cottage hospital beds and the downgrading of services at the West Cumberland Hospital. Community activists highlighted the dangers of transferring women in labour by ambulance to the already overstretched Cumberland Infirmary, and campaigners from Alston repeatedly pointed out the impossibility of residents being treated at Penrith or Carlisle. Despite the panel trying to restrict the meeting to a meaningless question and answer session, activists successfully opened it up to longer contributions from the floor. Panel members were heckled when they attempted to deny the changes were caused by budget cuts, and told that none of their options were acceptable to the meeting. We put the matter to a vote, and every one of the hundreds of members present voted to reject all of the plans. Nevertheless, the chair of Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group intends to press ahead. The public were left in no doubt that this was a sham consultation designed merely to discharge the CCG's legal duty
Campaign groups will now organise the next stage in opposing these cuts, including building towards the national NHS demo on 4th March next year.