The New York Times recently got in touch to ask to visit Alston hospital. They contacted Malcolm Forster from the Alston League of Friends and asked if they could speak to him about the new way of delivering health care to those on Alston Moor.
The article that they are working concentrates on austerity and its effect on rural communities. Alston has been selected as an example of an isolated rural community and a number of people and organisations have been approached.
The reporter Ceylan Yeginsu met Malcom and Marti Irving, from the Partnership Trust, at the hospital and they explained the new way of working and how it came about. Malcolm explained:
“The hospital is very important to the people of Alston Moor and when we were told the beds would be closing it was met with fierce opposition. But working together with the Trust, hospital staff, the GP surgery, county, district and parish councillors, public health and the local care home provider, we have come up with a new model that actually brings more health care onto Alston Moor and helps keep people out of hospital. Now the decision has been formally agreed we are all keen to start the process of using the hospital as the hub to develop the services that we need in Alston.
“This was a different fight to the one we had in 2006 when the whole hospital and the services were under threat of closure. Only the beds were under threat this time and the Trust was already having severe difficulties staffing them to the point where they had to be temporarily closed for over a year because of a lack of staff. The staff moved to a community model instead. Now the decision has been made to permanently close them but we have secured the hospital building, we have secured the hospital staff’s jobs and given them a chance to develop new skills, we have secured a community model that actually delivers more care to more people on the Moor and we have the commitment from all health and care agencies to develop services further.”
Marti Irving from the communications team at the Trust said: “While it is right that part of the need to change the way we were doing things was partly down to the limited amount of resources available to the NHS, what we have actually achieved in Alston is a new model that is better than we had. Staff are no longer tied to the ward so they can see far more people in the community, in their own homes. When we had the beds most of the people in them were not from Alston. So I hope the piece reflects that, thanks to the efforts of the Alliance, innovation has been born from austerity.”
Ceylan said: “I wanted to cover a community in Cumbria for this story but I wasn’t sure which one, when the snow happened in March I ended up covering the story of Alston and the surrounding areas being cut off. Seeing the community spirit here was incredible and having only spent a few days here I was very interested in the local response to the bed closures and the changes in how healthcare is being delivered.”
The Trust and the Alliance will share the article when it is published later in the year.