A NEW pledge to upgrade and develop health services at Clitheroe Community Hospital has been made.
Officials at NHS East Lancashire have promised that the hospital is safe and have joined forces with Ribble Valley Borough Council and local GPs to move forward with upgrading health plans for Clitheroe.
A series of meetings will be held later this month inviting members of the public to have their say about ways of maintaining, developing and improving the services at the existing hospital in Chatburn Road, Clitheroe.
The borough’s GPs and councillors will also be involved in the plans, despite last year’s news that the provision of a new Clitheroe Community Hospital would not go ahead.
Steve Spoerry, Chief Executive of NHS East Lancashire, said: “NHS East Lancashire is extremely disappointed not to have been able to proceed with the new hospital development on the grounds of affordability.
“However, we recognise that the case for investment has not changed and now the onus is upon us to plan a way forward from within the resources we do have.
“Many local people were involved in the planning of the proposed development and we want to use that valuable work to help us find a sustainable and affordable alternative.”
“NHS East Lancashire is keen to identify an affordable and suitable option for services primarily based in Clitheroe Community Hospital.”
Mr Spoerry added: “There are no plans to close the hospital. Our aim is to protect and preserve local services. “We recognise that although the original case for a new build for Clitheroe Community Hospital was sound, unfortunately funding in the NHS has changed and therefore the original proposal is now unaffordable.
“We are working with local doctors, health and council staff, and the public to ensure that we have sustainable health services that meet the needs of residents for the longer term.
“Just leaving the hospital as it is over the next five to 10 years is not an option, it’s an ageing facility and we need to ensure that there is a sensible plan for the future.”
The move has been welcomed by Mr Trevor Roberts, who is a member of the Clitheroe Health Centre User Group. He said: “This is good news. Ribble Valley residents feel strongly about health services remaining in our town.
“The ‘Save Clitheroe Hospital’ petition, which was launched in November in a bid to maintain and develop all current services, now has more than 4,000 signatures and has been sent to Mr Spoerry.
“It’s great to see the support from local people who want their hospital upgraded.”
Meanwhile, Whalley-based GP, Dr Ian Whyte, who represents local GPs on the planning group, said: “It’s very encouraging that we have been invited to talk about the future of the Clitheroe Hospital facility and we look forward to evaluating the options that come forward in the near future.”
Similar views were expressed by Coun. Michael Ranson, leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council, who commented: “We have met with representatives of NHS East Lancashire and local GP’s and are delighted that this issue is being given the attention it deserves as it is extremely important to the local community.
“We understand the affordability issues that the NHS faces, but believe that if we all work together then we will be able to find a way forward.
“It has been reassuring that Mr Spoerry has confirmed that there are no planned reductions in hospital services at Clitheroe.”