HEALTH leaders are calling on the Government to recognise the need for more funding for rural services following the decision to retain two consultant-led maternity units in north and West Cumbria.

Its Success Regime had originally wanted to centralise services in Carlisle – but there was widespread concern about the risk to mothers and unborn babies enduring 40-mile transfers along the A595.

Following community unrest and independent reviews, NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body has agreed that the area needs two consultant-led maternity units.

However it says that comes with a cost – and members are now calling on the Government to ensure remote, rural areas like Cumbria get the funding levels they need.

Whitehaven GP David Rogers, CCG medical director, said: “The CCG has always been consistent and said this is not about money. Having two small sites does cost more money. But really that’s a message for our external funders – to central government, to make sure they fund rural services.”

In making the decision, chief finance officer Charles Wellbourn said that there were no immediate financial implications for the local NHS, in that it already funds two units.

“However it’s really important that we, as the North Cumbria health system, continue to make appropriate representations at a national level,” he said. “We have a number of services in north Cumbria where, to make sure they are accessible to patients, we have to have duplication. That can’t be avoided, but it comes with a cost. It’s really important that is taken into account,” he explained.”

Peter Rooney, chief operating officer, added: “It is more about securing more money from national government. That’s what we need to do. That’s at the heart of it.”