Health trust denies claims Kendal hospital is to shut in favour of RLI investment

Royal Lancaster Infirmary.'The original old building.
Royal Lancaster Infirmary.'The original old building.

Morecambe Bay health bosses have denied that there are plans to close the Westmorland General Hospital in order to invest more money in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

It had been suggested that a £150m windfall was set for the RLI in addition to a downgrading or closure of the Kendal hospital as part of a major review of how services are delivered across North Lancashire and South Cumbria.

And, although Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris insisted the Lancaster site was to receive that sum, the trust strenuously denied there were any plans to shut Westmorland General Hospital.

The claim emerged after clinicians were briefed by trust chief executive, Jackie Daniel.

Mr Morris said: “It is marvellous news that they have got this £150m.

“It is something I have been working on behind the scenes for quite some time.

“It’s across the whole trust, but most will be spent in Lancaster. It will be as good as a whole new hospital being built.

“It is a reward to the people at the hospital who have worked hard to turn things around.”

Ms Daniel said in a statement: “We have no plans to close Westmorland General Hospital.

“The discussions we have had with our clinicians have explored a number of different ideas about how improving services for our patients might be achieved, not just in Kendal, but right across the Morecambe Bay area.

“It is a shame that an individual has focussed on one particular aspect and used it to cause needless worry.

“As to the future of Westmorland General Hospital, what is important is that the services provided are appropriate, safe and of a high quality – that must remain our priority for all of our hospitals.

“I would like to reiterate, we have not approved any plans to close any services at Westmorland General Hospital.

“Through the better care together process, local GPs, Clinical Commissioning Groups and the Trust are working together to provide a long-term plan for healthcare across all organisations in the Morecambe Bay area, and we have said since we began this work two years ago that we would look at all options to ensure the healthcare systems are sustainable for future generations, both clinically and financially.

“Last year the better care together review focused primarily on services within hospitals. Following extensive discussions with the public, together with advice from leading doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals and feedback from NHS staff, the review has been widened to put greater emphasis on care outside hospital.

“Over the last month, further engagement activities have taken place, where doctors and nurses from our hospitals, together with local GPs, met with the public and stakeholders to help us better understand how services may be provided in the future.

“It is envisaged that a series of recommendations from this review will be presented to NHS England for approval in the summer.

“Any proposals for major changes to services would then require consultation.”