CAMPAIGNERS shed tears of joy as health bosses pledged to retain consultant-led maternity services in Whitehaven.

It follows a meeting of NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group's (CCG) governing body at Cleator moor yesterday.

After years of campaigning, the panel gave a public commitment to retain the consultant-led unit at the West Cumberland Hospital.

"I couldn't be happier. It's been such a long road, but every minute of the campaign has been worth it," said Annette Robinson, a leading voice of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital group.

Retired consultant Mahesh Dhebar has long called for a public pledge to sustain the service, saying that in itself would make it easier to attract new staff and retain others.

After the meeting he said: "I was hoping for this commitment. We still have a lot of work to do but if we know we are going to keep the service, we will be able to recruit.

"It's taken about five years, but we finally have that commitment."

Jon Ward, of the West Cumbrians' Voice for Healthcare group, said he was pleased that the significance of the co-production work they have been part of had been recognised.

"There's been a long process of building trust. Now we have got a turning point," he said.

Former hospital worker turned health campaigner Christine Wharrier said: "We've had so many reviews in the past that have been middle of the road. I'm delighted that Bill Kirkup has actually listened to the people, and the CCG has listened to him.

"They have made a long term commitment to the service, in public. I'm absolutely delighted."

Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie said: "I'm absolutely delighted. It's the right result. A lot of people have put a lot of commitment into getting us to where we are today.

"We now have to keep our foot on the accelerator on recruitment and really talk up the area, to get a positive message across."

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison said it was a "huge relief" for west Cumbria. She added: “This was a landmark decision for hospital staff, the community, women and their families - and thankfully it was the right decision."

Workington MP Sue Hayman said: "I want to pay tribute to the many local health campaigners for their years of dedication. Our community would never have let services be removed without a fight, and I’m proud that their long-running campaign has succeeded. Every expectant mother in west Cumbria will benefit as a result."