A&E services at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven are under review in the face of “staffing challenges”.

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS boss Lyn Simpson said the trust was still committed to providing 24-hour accident and emergency cover.

Her deputy, Professor John Howarth, admitted however that there were some “forthcoming staffing challenges and so clinical leaders in the team are reviewing our current arrangements”.

He added that the trust would be working with local community groups “to find a long term sustainable solution to these challenges that will enable us to keep A&E open 24/7”.

“Next month we will be launching engagement activities that we are currently designing with community groups to understand priorities of the community for the £33m capital investment that has been secured for the next phase of the West Cumberland Hospital redevelopment.

“This is a significant investment that will enable us to deliver high-quality modern healthcare services for the residents of West Cumbria.”

Whitehaven resident and political activist Stephen Ward accused the trust of trying to shut down the hospital altogether.

“I was a local councillor in Essex. In our area they stopped surgery, then A&E and finally closed the hospital.”

The idea of another public review has also worried campaigners. Christine Wharrier from the campaign group, said: “If A&E at WCH reduces services overnight Carlisle will implode.

“Bringing back more trauma to west instead of transferring a high percentage to Carlisle A&E would encourage recruitment.

“The Trust have reduced beds and the level of trauma treatment provided by far too much and this debacle is the result.”

Annette Robson, who has led the campaign to save the hospital, also said retaining and returning more emergency services to WCH to serve the needs of the people of West Cumbria is essential.

“It would also help with the recruitment problems we are told the trust are having in employing consultants to work there.”

She was also adamant that there had been enough consultation: “After years of consultation and ‘engagement’ I would have thought it was clear what the community’s priorities are for the £33 million capital investment. Top of my list is a fully functioning hospital in Whitehaven.”

Campaigner Lynne Davies accused the trust of not preparing ahead: “It seems that management wait for the crisis to happen instead of being proactive. They must know when people are retiring or planning to leave but they seem to be willing to rely on the goodwill of other staff already working under great pressure to cover the gaps.”