Assurances over plans to discharge patients and recruitment and retention of staff were hot topics raised by governors and members of the public at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust’s (NCIC) Annual Members’ Meeting (AMM) last week.

The meeting held at Harraby Community Centre, Carlisle on 9th November was an opportunity for members of the public to learn more about our achievements and challenges during the year 2021/22, our financial position, and plans for the future.  

Peter Scott, Interim Chair said was able to report that the Trust has been able to reduce waiting times for patients eliminating long waits of over 104 weeks and secured investment to further reduce waiting times in 22/23. Other achievements include being successful in recruiting additional nurses and doctors and securing additional funds for services including phase 2 of the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital, two new catheter labs for the heart centre at the Cumberland Infirmary and the refurbishment of Penrith hospital. 

Lyn Simpson then touched on our future plans, including reducing waiting times for our patients, reducing the number of patients who are waiting to be discharged from hospital and ensuring our workforce are better supported. 

Lyn said: “One of our biggest challenges is ensuring that when patients are fit to be discharged from hospital, that they are discharged home or to an alternative care setting swiftly to free up beds for people who need to be admitted or who are having planned treatment. For many of our patients it is only possible to do this safely if they have the right care packages in place to support them. Pressures in social care mean that too often this isn’t the case.

“As a result the numbers of patients in this position in our hospital is unacceptably high – around about 200 patients at any one time which is the equivalent of six wards being unavailable to new patients.

“We know that lengthy stays in hospital are potentially harmful to vulnerable patients who are exposed to risks they are less likely to face at home or in care settings. So we have been working closely with partners across the system, including the local authority, for some time. We are exploring every opportunity to take action ourselves and in partnership to alleviate these pressures including:

  • We have been funded in the short term to provide an additional 15 beds in Ward 5 at the West Cumberland Hospital.
  • We have recruited additional homecare practitioners to help facilitate discharge by supporting patients in their own homes
  • We are developing a single joint recruitment arrangement between the Trust and Local Authority to provide a fast-track recruitment process for roles such as healthcare assessments, qualified nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists etc. 
  • We are finalising arrangements to staff and access beds within the local authority care sector.”

Lyn ended by saying, “It is going to be our biggest challenge as we move into winter, and we are making this a priority for us and the wider system. I want to reassure you as we head into the winter, we will stick with our improvement plans and we are in it for the long haul. Patients in Cumbria deserve outstanding care and we are determined to make that a reality.

“I want to thank our governors, partners, league of friends, volunteers and the wider community for their support over this year. Now, more than ever before, we all need to work together to improve the health of our community.”

Following the presentations, members of the board answered a range of questions on topics including nurse training, the cost of living, policy on supporting needs of patients with learning disabilities, solar panels and recruitment and retention. You can see the questions and responses in full on our website.

A full copy of the annual report and accounts for 2021/22 are available on the Trust’s website along with video presentations from Lyn Simpson, Chief Executive, Peter Scott, Chair and Stuart Diggles, Interim Director of Finance.

If you would like to get more involved with the Trust, you can join us as a member on our website to receive regular updates or email the corporate governance team. Foundation Trust members also qualify for health service discounts so sign up today!