Jane McNicholas on the future of Westmorland General Hospital

Date posted: 11th October 2022 Jane McNicholas on the future of Westmorland General Hospital thumbnail image

Although it’s not in the scope of the Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme, Westmorland General Hospital (opens in new window) will continue to play a key role in Morecambe Bay.

Miss Jane McNicholas, Medical Director of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, explains where Kendal’s hospital will fit in the region’s healthcare picture.

What role can you see Westmorland General Hospital having in the New Hospitals Programme?

Westmorland General is the third largest hospital site for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (opens in new window) after Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Furness General Hospital, and it's really important going forwards as what we'd call our elective care site (for care that is planned in advance) or green site (for patients who have been assessed as having no current risk of Covid-19).

The last thing we need is to have patients’ operations being cancelled because of acute bed problems, which we see on our other sites, because there's nothing worse for patients than having an operation planned and it then being cancelled at very short notice. In terms of looking at operating an efficient model, it's really useful for us to be able to concentrate our elective surgery onto sites like Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal.

In the last two years, we’ve learned that it's also very good for us to be able to use green sites so that we can continue with surgery, even when we've got lots of acutely unwell patients with other things. It has also been key in terms of our infection control recently, as it's been a big bonus to have those sites so that we've been able to maintain cancer and really urgent surgery throughout the pandemic.

There are other important services at Westmorland General Hospital as well. We've got our Urgent Treatment Centre (opens in new window) and the Kentmere Unit (opens in new window) - part of the mental health services - which opened in August 2022 following refurbishment (opens in new window). There is also ongoing work to build a new operating theatre for the hospital.

How does mental health play a role in the New Hospitals Programme?

We know that what we're doing now isn't the best model for mental health services and there is an opportunity for us to address the out-of-hospital care provision, self-care, the prevention strategy, as well as referrals for patients into hospitals and onto tertiary services if necessary.

We need to ensure that we are working with our partners, which we do closely as a clinical network in the region. It is also important to make sure that we have got the right support in place to prevent people going into hospital unnecessarily, and that people who do need to be in hospital are in the right place for the right treatment, wherever that might be.

What education and research opportunities will the New Hospitals Programme bring to help attract the workforce of the future?

We already have training facilities around our sites, but they aren’t designed in a way that allows us to reach our research potential. It's important that we are using all the facilities we've got to maximise both training and research, because I think we all feel that we could do an awful lot more research with better research facilities.

In terms of training opportunities for professionals and workforce planning, we need to grow our own workforce using different models and get to the point at which we offer opportunities, not just for doctors and nurses, but for all of the professionals and roles that we need within hospitals. Ultimately aiming to be the employer of choice.

It's absolutely fundamental that we build all of those things in. What we need to design is not just hospital buildings that are sustainable, but a model for care and a model for workforce that is sustainable for the future - and geographically that can be quite difficult in our area. This is a real opportunity for us to deliver that differently.

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