CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Pendle Community Hospital from closure are claiming victory after health chiefs said three years of funding had been found to keep in-patient beds at the Leeds Road hospital.
At a meeting of a Pendle Council scrutiny panel on Monday, East Lancashire Primary Care Trust assistant director for commissioning Tim Mansfield told members the Nelson hospital was to remain open.
Fears were voiced over the future of the hospital in the autumn when it was announced 20 rehabilitation beds on three wards were to be removed, sparking concerns the hospital would become little more than a clinic.
A protest petition launched by campaigners gathered more than 8,000 signatures in Pendle and Burnley, and this newspaper received 300 “We Say No” coupons from people angered at the closure proposals.
Coun. Eileen Ansar, who has been a leading light in the campaign, said: ”This is excellent news for local patients.
“This campaign to keep the hospital open is down to the thousands of ordinary people who signed our petition over the last six months.
“I want to thank the health officials for listening and acting on the concerns of people from Pendle and Burnley. I also want to thank local businesses and all those who helped to collect the signatures.
“Now we have to monitor what happens from here and keep the pressure to ensure services like cardiology are introduced back into the hospital. Our campaign goes on to ensure no loss of services.”
Mr Azhar Ali, the former chairman of Burnley NHS Trust and fellow campaigner, said: “ 8,000 plus people from across Pendle and Burnley signed the petition and this is their victory.
“We have managed to secure more outpatient services, but equally important, kept the vast majority of in-patient and rehabilitation beds at Pendle Community Hospital.
“However, we need to look carefully at how rehabiltation services are going to be delivered and keep monitoring progress at the hospital.
“I also want to focus on ensuring we get dementia beds and care provided for local people in Pendle at the hospital as well as work with health officials to develop new infrastructure which helps families cope with serious heath issues at hospital before moving to treatment at home.”
County Coun. George Adam added: “This is a good response to local peoples concerns but we now need to focus on holding the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust to account on the A&E service and concerns around the lack of bed capacity.
Conservative Coun. Joe Cooney, who is part of the scrutiny panel, said: “Despite Labour spreading scare stories about the hospital closing, tonight we’ve heard a firm commitment that that was never going to happen.
“This is good news for all residents of Pendle. I asked the trust directly if the hospital would close and the reply was no.
“In fact, the trust believes it is possible to deliver more services from the hospital than currently available.”
Regional Unison organiser Tim Ellis, who attended the meeting, said: ”Health workers will be pleased with the news that we have managed to force the health officals into a position to secure services in Nelson for local people but there is still much to do.”
Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “I am appalled by how Labour have sought to play on people’s fears on this issue. I was given firm assurances there were no plans to close Pendle Community Hospital last November, but Labour continued with their baseless speculation about the hospital’s future. Given the downgrading of Burnley A&E department when they were in Government, local people will be right to feel you can’t trust Labour on the NHS.