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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Clear threat still remains

THE battleground to safeguard this community’s fragile health services switched to Whitehall this week – where a qualified victory was secured.

EM John Woodcock
Barrow and Furness Labour MP John Woodcock

A lot has happened and the focus has changed rapidly in a turbulent fortnight that has seen our NHS issues appear on the national radar.

Just 10 days ago some of our expectant mums did not know whether they were coming or going.

Health bosses said a shortage of nurses at Furness General Hospital meant a temporary emergency measure was being introduced: mums would be dispatched by ambulance to Lancaster to have their babies.

Within hours this announcement was revoked after neo-natal nurses were hastily recruited from elsewhere in the UK.

It was a fiasco that shocked Furness families – especially those where new arrivals were imminent – and underlined the importance of maternity services.

After raising the issue in parliament I was swiftly able to obtain a meeting with health minister Dr Dan Poulter which took place on Tuesday in Whitehall.

Dr Poulter heard members of a Barrow contingent who were with me stress the dangers of transporting patients 50 miles down the A590 if maternity or accident and emergency provision were moved from FGH to Lancaster.

The minister gave us an assurance that services such as the FGH maternity unit would not be taken away “by the back door”.

And welcome though that pledge might be, it means only that proper procedures will be followed and any changes will be implemented openly.

A review of services is on the horizon – and that signals a clear threat remaining to the long-term future of the consultant-led maternity unit at FGH – and other key health services in our area.

But this community is not without resources.

Rarely in recent years has this area witnessed such popular support for a campaign as we are seeing with the Thousand Voices push.

Volunteers are gathering short video clips of Furness people who are opposed to any downgrading of the unit – with well over half the total already reached.

A key opportunity for the public to have their say face-to-face with health bosses will take place at the Forum in Barrow on Thursday March 7 from 6pm.

Senior NHS managers have accepted an invitation to attend where they will be able to field questions from a Furness public badly in need of straight answers and reassurance.

IT was great to welcome friendly faces from the Furness business community to Cumbria Day – a showcase of the county’s finest food and drink – at the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

Broughton Village Bakery, Green’s Bakers and Confectioners and Ulverston Brewing Company manage to thrive in difficult economic conditions because of the excellence of their wares. It was so good to see them and they fully deserved their day in the limelight.

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