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Sunday, 24 May 2015

Hospital facilities fight will continue

IT has been a little while since I have mentioned the Westmorland General Hospital in this column but I hope you don’t feel that I have stopped fighting for more and better facilities there.

Tim Farron
Tim Farron

I met with the chief executive and chair of the Morecambe Bay Hospital Trust earlier this week to discuss this very issue.

To be fair, as a result of all of our campaigning, we have seen some investment on the hospital recently with the new chemotherapy unit, a new renal unit and new mental health services but we need so much more. Our campaign for a new radiotherapy unit continues, that will not be funded by the Hospital Trust, but I keep pressuring the decision makers to get on and decide to bring us the facilities we need. Every week that passes results in more people making the long journey to Preston for this treatment and so the sooner we get the new unit the better.

However, the campaign does not end there. I have pressed the Trust to bring back the accident and emergency unit to the hospital. It is simply unsafe for people to have to travel all the way to Lancaster in an emergency, particularly if they live up around Ambleside and Grasmere.

I was lucky enough to be called to ask a question during questions to the Health Minister in Parliament the other day and took the opportunity to also press the government for their support in encouraging the Hospitals Trust to re-establish A & E facilities at the Westmorland General Hospital.

I was honestly slightly surprised when the answer I received from the minister was less bland than they often are and actually sounded encouraging. What he said was that the new system for funding hospitals comes into operation next year under the NHS Commissioning Board. He was aware that in the past the funding formulas did not make sufficient allowance for rural health services and in particular the fact that there are a great many more elderly people living in areas like ours. He claimed that work was already under way in addressing this issue and that he was continuing with it and was happy to raise this with the new board.

I will keep pressing both the Minister and the Trust to ensure that we do get the funding we need to get the health service we deserve in South Lakeland, but it does sound like they are listening.

THANK you everyone who made the effort to vote in the PCC election a couple of weeks ago.

You certainly delivered on my wish for us to have a one of the highest turnouts in the country, South Lakeland actually had the highest turnout of any area in the country. However, 24 per cent turnout is, of course, very disappointing, reflecting a number of issues people discussed with me both during the campaign and subsequently, many of which I have a great deal of sympathy for, hence my gratitude to those who voted despite these concerns.

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