‘Super health centre’ plan for Royal Lancaster Infirmary outlined in Morecambe Bay report

The RLI.
The RLI.

Two super GP surgeries costing £30m will be built in Lancaster as part of a sweeping overhaul of our health services.

Plans for two centres housing several different GP practices, one at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) and another on a site to be announced, are part of a root-and-branch report into the future of health care in Morecambe Bay.

The Better Care Together report has also confirmed the RLI will stay open as “there are no proposals to close hospitals”.

The hospital’s Accident and Emergency service and maternity unit are also under no threat of closure because it would be “unsafe” to shut them. And there are no plans for privatisation of local health services.

Put together with the help of hospital doctors, GPs, nurses and social care staff, the report admitted “precious lives are being lost” as a result of failings in health care in Morecambe Bay.

The report said: “We aren’t doing enough to support people to prevent them from becoming ill in the first place.

“Then, when people are ill, we don’t always give them the advice or tools to manage their own condition and prevent crises from occurring.

“We have sometimes let our patients and their families down with devastating consequences.”

The report says many current GP buildings are “outdated with poor access”.

It also says there needs to be “fewer handoffs” of patients from one agency to another. A special team will track patients in and out of hospital to ensure that they don’t get “lost in the system” and won’t need to keep “telling their story” to different people.

Proposals aim to reduce the number of non-elective hospital admissions by more than 9,000 over the next five years across the entire Morecambe Bay hospitals trust, which includes the RLI, Furness General at Barrow-in-Furness and Westmorland General in Kendal.

They also cover £18m of the trust’s current annual defecit of £26.3m, but still leave an £8m funding gap.

The report also asks for around £100m to make the vision a reality.

The idea of a ‘super hospital’ in Morecambe Bay has also been ruled out.

The strategy also includes the following proposals:

*Most in-patient elective surgery to transfer from Westmorland General to RLI and Furness General

*Some specialist services could be removed from the RLI

*Big transfer of treatment from hospital to GP surgeries and the community

*Paediatric services, emergency care and treatment, obstetric care, specialist surgical and planned care to remain at RLI

*Two multi-storey car parks to be built at the RLI – one for staff and one for patients

*Respiratory patients will be given early access to hospital without going through A&E or formal hospital appointment

*The North West Ambulance HQ could be moved to Barrow

*Involvement from voluntary sector “crucial going forward”

*525 fewer jobs trust-wide in future through “natural wastage and a reduction in agency staff”

*150 fewer hospital beds will be required

Amina Lone, Labour’s candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale, called the report ”an ambitious strategy that could improve the quality of care received by people in Morecambe and Lunesdale”.

“I am obviously delighted that local clinicians and NHS management have set out plans that include retaining the full range of vital health services at Royal Lancaster Infirmary,” she said.

“However, much as I wish I could say that this is the end of the fight to save our local hospital services, the reality is that they still remain under severe threat from the huge and rapid cuts that ministers are demanding the trust makes.

“Local clinicians and management have made huge efforts through this strategy to save money, but there is an £8m gap they simply cannot fill without compromising safety and care quality – we need ministers to step up and fund that gap, as well as providing the cash that will allow these ambitious changes to happen.”

Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster, said: The report is clear that A&E provisions at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary will remain open, this is something that I and the Secretary of State have been saying for sometime.

“I hope now that scaremongering about the future of A&E will cease.

“The report also outlines that staff will travel to locations that are convenient for patients, this will reduce the number of patients with non-life threatening illnesses using A&E as an out of hours service, this is something that I welcome.

“Part of the Government’s strategy has been to give our GPs more say in the care we receive. I am pleased that the report outlines a plan to discharge patients into the community who do not need to be in hospital. However, I would like assurances that there will be support in place for those patients who are discharged and particularly for patients living in rural areas.

“It’s clear that most of the deficit can be sorted over time and I see my job now as helping to convince Government that funds invested now in restructuring the RLI’s buildings could produce some of these savings.”