South Cumbria and North Lancashire communities are being asked to provide crucial public input into an 'unprecedented' review of health services across Morecambe Bay.

The root-and-branch review began last autumn with experts and is now shifting into the public arena.

It is looking at where services and expertise might be based or relocated across the trust's estate in future.

It will result in options being drawn-up and those being tabled for widespread public consultation in late summer to autumn, before final decisions are agreed.

The review has been ordered as part of the groundwork for the arrival of new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG's) which formally come into effect from April.

These replace the NHS primary care trusts and will lead on planning and purchasing services.

It includes deciding what and where local health services should go - such as whether Kendal's Westmorland General Hospital should have an A&E acute service ahead of the RLI.

The CCG's have been created due to a shift in government policy to put 'family doctors as opposed to NHS managers' in charge.

However, ongoing issues at the trust which operates hospitals in Kendal, Barrow and Lancaster, and the need to maintain high quality healthcare in a climate of reducing costs in the public sector, is also part of the rationale for the review.

Two commissioning groups will now serve the area - NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Lancashire North CCG.

They assume responsibility from the NHS primary care trusts which previously got their spending power direct from the Department of Health and decided where and how to spend it.

Lakes MP Tim Farron believes the review represents a unique chance for the area to lure extra  services and more expertise into Kendal's Westmorland General Hospital.

Starting this Saturday and ending on March 27, an information bus under the review's 'BetterCare Together' slogan, visits Lancaster, Ulverston, Grange, Kendal, Windermere, Barrow, Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale, then Morecambe and Carnforth.

Questionaires are also being put into GP surgeries and hospitals for completion or can be requested by emailing or calling 01539 715219.

Grange GP, Dr Hugh Reeve, has the role of heading up the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group.

He said: "There are some difficult decisions to be made about how we provide health services both inside and outside hospitals in future. It is important we know what local people think and what their priorities are. We would therefore encourage people to come and talk to us on the information bus as it vists their area."

Morecambe doctor, Alex Gaw, for NHS North Lancashire CCG, said the review will focus not on historic arrangements, but 'what is best and safest for patients based on the current evidence.'

The bus visits Ulverston on March 19, Grange, March 20; Kendal, March 21; Windermere, March 22; Barrow, March 23; and Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale, March 25.

UHMBT has already said the review could involve 'major changes' and that doctors and nurses have fed in a 'huge list of options' to consider.

Further details can be found at