At the top of Station Hill in Wigton on a crisp, sunny, Autumn day there is a hive of activity.
Volunteers outside Wigton Hospital on Cross Lane are directing patients into the car park.
Many of them are here for their Covid-19 jabs, but, many more are here for a variety of other treatments and services.
Alison Kitson, Community and ICC Operational Lead for Keswick and Solway, explains: “Since the closure of the inpatient beds at Wigton Hospital in 2018, we have been working really hard to regenerate the Hospital into the Community Hub that the local population need and deserve. Our vision has been to create a thriving hub for healthcare, collaboration and community engagement. Sitting midway between the hospitals at Carlisle and Whitehaven, Wigton is ideally placed to house a number of health and health-related services. District Nurses, Community Response Team and Health Visitors serving the local population, are based out of the Hospital; while Midwives, Dialysis Team, Physiotherapy, Dermatology also use the hospital as a base."
We meet Rachel Burns as we enter the Day Unit. Rachel is the Clinical Team Lead for the Day Unit at Wigton as well as the Medical Procedures Unit (MPU) at Carlisle. She reflects on the bed closures of 2018:
“It was a tough time for us all but since we developed the Day Unit at Wigton, it’s been great. It’s much more positive now and we’re getting so many referrals. With a renewed commitment towards collaboration between Primary and Community services, we are working more closely than ever before with GPs to improve the health and wellbeing of our population. Most of our patients are from the local area, which means that people are receiving care closer to home.
The work I do is clinically based. I administer Intravenous antibiotics, provide blood transfusions and support patients with wound and catheter care. It’s a joy to come to work!”
It is clear that the day unit provides a positive therapeutic environment, as two patients sit comfortably reading and listening to the radio while having blood transfusions.
Patient Malcolm Sutherland, 66, of Carlisle regularly receives medication through an intravenous infusion.
He said: “I am a regular visitor to Wigton Hospital - and Maryport Hospital as well. The team that looked after me are great. The nurses are very caring and you get to know them so you can have a proper chat. They get often spot other things too. I had an infection in my arm and one nurse spotted it and got it seen to quickly. It’s a great standard of care and the hospital is a great facility.”
Next door to the Day Unit is the Dialysis Suite. This facility enables patients to receive dialysis whilst also being taught to self-dialyse so they can be discharged to their own homes. Prior to this facility being available in Wigton Hospital, there was a shortage of such space. This suite can accommodate two patients at a time, and is helping reduce the waiting list of patients looking to be able to self-care.
Leaving the Dialysis Suite and walking along the corridor, we meet Alona Kerr. Alona is one of the nurses in the Respiratory Team and is busy carrying out an ambulatory oxygen assessment. Alona tells us: “We had to close this service during the COVID Pandemic but, as restrictions start to ease, we have reintroduced our services. We have started in Wigton, but we are hoping to re-open our other clinics across North Cumbria soon.”
As we walk back along the corridor, we come across the Rehabilitation Suite. This facility hosts a number of programmes to help support and improve physical and mental health and wellbeing. By taking a holistic approach towards physical activity, nutrition and diet, psychology and lifestyle management, the programmes are all designed to enable patients to achieve their optimal potential and confidence.
As we leave behind the patient-facing facilities, we meet the clinicians and administrators behind the ICC. The Keswick and Solway Integrated Care Community (ICC) Hub is next door to the District Nurse’s office – both are a hive of activity. The Hub coordinates all referrals into the ICC, ensuring that they reach the appropriate service in the most efficient and effective manner.
Across the hall, a rehabilitation suite gives patients the confidence to get back on their feet. Falls groups and weight management sessions are held in here.
Alison said: “People who may have tried different diets can come here for weight management sessions and we can give them some nutritional input.”
Dermatology teams use a suite at the hospital for different procedures and health and wellbeing have a presence here.
Inside the district nurses’ room it’s a hive of activity. The Keswick and Solway Integrated Care Community (ICC) Hub is next door, where all the referrals come in. It’s a busy place.
Respiratory team all provide daily services within the Hospital – it’s a busy place.
Margaret Wood, administration assistant, has worked at the hospital for 20 years and is the ‘face of reception’ as we enter the building. Margaret tells us: “I love coming to work. A lot has changed in 20 years, including the services that we offer and the technology that we use. However, it remains a great team where everyone pulls together to make sure the patients get the best experience.”
As we reach the end of our walk around, Alison tells us more of the future plans for Wigton Hospital. “Improvement work continues and we are looking to expand the services that we offer here at Wigton. We have aspirations to introduce a Learning space for staff, helping professionals to learn and grow together. Also, we are currently planning a Community Kitchen, enabling the local population to be supported to learn and develop skills relating to healthy diet and nutrition, whilst providing much needed refreshments to staff and visitors to the Hospital. Despite the COVID pandemic, we have made huge developments at Wigton in the last 20 months and have many more exciting plans for the future. Wigton is an exciting place to work, with a fantastically dedicated team of professionals. I am immensely proud to be responsible for the development of Wigton Hospital and look forward to continuing to provide exceptional services to the local and wider population going forwards.”
The hospital is supported by The League of Friends charity who regularly raise funds for equipment needed to benefit patient care.
Eveline Dugdale, Chair of The League of Friends, said: “This year, the League of Friends has been very busy selling Christmas cards in the Co-op foyer. We sold 480 packs over two weekends. This is our way of raising money and letting our community see we are still working.
“People don’t realise that all of this happens at Wigton Hospital. I don’t think people know that the district nurses work out of the hospital - a lot of those nurses were formerly on the ward.”