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Health regulator launches formal investigation into Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust

January 18, 2012 2:52 PM

Tim and the Lib Dems at WGHSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has called on the government to urgently step in as news breaks that health regulators the Care Quality Commission (CQC) are launching only their fourth ever formal investigation in their history. The news has echoes of the situation at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust who were investigated in a similar way by the CQC's predecessors, the Healthcare Commission. Tim has spent the afternoon meeting with Department of Health ministers to talk about a way forward.

The latest review will look at emergency care at the trust following an unsatisfactory spot check on December 21st at the A&E department in Lancaster which treats patients from a wide area of South Cumbria, North Lancashire and North Yorkshire.

Concerned at the number of concurrent reviews into services at the trust, and the lack of any organisation looking at the 'big picture', Tim has sought an emergency meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley. Speaking this morning, Tim said: "Patients across the South Lakes, North Lancashire and North Yorkshire will be rightly concerned that yet another review has been launched into the Morecambe Bay trust. The doctors, nurses and staff at the trust are fantastic and work really hard, but they too must be under incredible pressure as these reviews increase in number.

"I'll be asking the health secretary to take a personal interest in the trust, and bring all of the reviews together under one roof so that we can get a true picture of what is actually going on in our hospitals across the board. It's all well and good to have all these different reviews, but both the regulators and health bosses will start to lose the overall picture if we're not careful - and that's a one way ticket to a Mid Staffordshire-style crisis."

The latest investigation into emergency care follows reviews into paediatrics, outpatients and corporate governance which have been launched in recent months by the CQC and foundation trust regulator Monitor. The investigation is expected to last for around 14 weeks and will look at emergency care pathways at all hospitals across the trust.

Tim said: "For the last three and a half years I have consistently argued that we need to bring back acute care to Westmorland General. The announcement that the Care Quality Commission is conducting a fourth review into the hospital shows that we need hospital bosses to hold their hands up and agree to bring back A&E and a heart unit to Westmorland General, together with the investment to make it work."

A separate review by the CQC into maternity services in September found that the trust is not meeting six essential standards.FurnessGeneralHospitalin Barrow, run by the trust, is where nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe died in November 2008 - and a number of other deaths at the hospital are being investigated by Cumbria Police. The Care Quality Commission consequently investigated and issued a highly critical report on the hospital's maternity services in September 2011. It also handed the trust a warning notice detailing the improvements to be made and setting a deadline.

Last November it was revealed that theMorecambeBaytrust has some of the highest mortality rates in the country - an issue which the trust put down to administrative issues in another echo of the crisis at Mid Staffordshire. In December Professor Eddie Kane decided to stand down as chairman of the trust.