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Penrith Recovery Centre held in reserve

As part of Cumbria's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, agencies from health, Local Authorities, care, emergency services, military, education and industry have come together to create a network of 'Community Recovery Centres'. The Community Recovery Centres have been designed as part of the county’s plans to provide additional capacity so patients can be discharged from hospital. Both NHS Trusts in the county have already significantly increased the bed capacity.

As part of contingency planning the Community Recovery Centres will be used for patients who are medically fit for discharge and are well enough to leave hospital, but need a little extra support to get back to their home. Community Recovery Centre beds will ONLY be used if needed. In South Cumbria, the Community Recovery Centres are located at Kendal Leisure Centre and Furness Academy in Barrow-in-Furness. These centres will offer up to an additional 142 beds.

Penrith Leisure Centre held in reserve

In the north of the county, work is underway to develop the centres in Carlisle and Whitehaven. These centres will offer up to an additional 120 beds. The site in Penrith will be kept in reserve.

Each centre will be equipped with hospital standard beds and screens to help ensure the privacy and dignity of patients. The centres will be staffed by existing NHS and care professionals and volunteers. All will be provided with the recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for this type of facility.

Volunteers needed

Partnership work is continuing with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS England to ensure the care in the units will meet the required standards for this type of provision. Work to determine how many volunteers will be needed and how they will be deployed is ongoing, but initially the centres will be looking for people who may be able to support registered healthcare professionals, for instance by serving food and drinks, supporting patients to walk to the bathroom and helping support communication between patients and families.

Anyone who may be interested in volunteering should express an interest through the Support Cumbria website www.supportcumbria.org.uk

Peter Rooney, Chief Operating Officer at NHS North Cumbria CCG, said: "On behalf of all NHS staff in north Cumbria I would like to thank everyone in Cumbria for continuing social distancing. This is the best way everyone can support the local NHS. We are developing our Community Recovery Centres in Carlisle and Whitehaven, and we will ensure the equipment, facilities and staff needed for the centres will be in place before any patients move there.

"Creating these centres is a huge team effort and the work required to transform sports halls into places appropriate to provide care to a high standard is significant. We would like to thank the Local Resilience Forum and all the local partners supporting this work."

Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, Chair of the Cumbria Local Resilience Forum, said: "As an LRF we recognised early that there is the potential for our hospital bed capacity to be exceeded and we took the decision to act. It’s fantastic to see these centres now taking shape and I hope people can now see the standard and quality that we are aiming for.

"It’s a real testament to the skill and experience of agencies in Cumbria that we’re achieving this under locally using our own resources. It is my hope that we will never need to use these centres, but knowing that we have them in place in case they are needed means we will be better placed to save more lives, and that is our over-riding aim."