NHS organizations, councils and community groups in Lancashire and South Cumbria are now working together to see if the RLI is fit for purpose or if, as part of the government’s New Hospitals scheme, it is proposing the construction of a new health institution.
“One of the Department of Health’s suggestions was to replace the RLI with a new ‘super’ hospital built somewhere near the M6 and serving patients from Cumbria to Preston,” Ms Smith said. “Patients and clinicians tell me that would be a really bad idea and I agree. I told the Minister that I believe health services should be provided locally, allowing easy access for the majority.
Ms Smith pointed to the region’s complex geography with many patients living in rural areas where there are fewer transport options.
“Taking down the RLI and replacing it with a super hospital 15 miles away would mean many people simply couldn’t attend appointments. At the same time, the RLI is very old and the cost of maintaining the sprawling complex is phenomenal. I would rather see the money spent on building a new local hospital, a hospital fit for the future, than repeatedly patching up a sick building.
Clinicians say this is a unique opportunity to transform our aging hospital and develop new state-of-the-art hospital facilities that offer the best in modern healthcare.
“Staff tell me that the existing hospital lacks space and storage, the theaters are too small and much of the site is on a slope, which in some areas is too steep for patients to be moved safely except by ambulance,” Ms Smith said. “This means that access to a large part of the site is difficult for people with disabilities. The provision of single rooms is only 50% of the standard recommended capacity and there are approximately 20 separate buildings to navigate, causing operational difficulties and discomfort for patients.
Mr Argar and Natalie Forrest, the new hospital’s senior program manager, told Ms Smith they accepted her arguments, reassuring her that ‘a great new hospital in Lancashire which serves no one, is not on maps for now – but it’s up to local decision-makers to take ownership of all the options and come up with something new.
“It’s really important that local people have a say,” Ms Smith said. “I urge everyone to get involved and share why they think our hospital services should stay local. And it’s not just about health – having a local hospital brings people to live and work here. , our economy benefits and we create future employment opportunities for our young people, which allows us to retain the talent of those who come here to university.
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