A MAN who has been admitted to hospital 40 times in 40 years is backing the Gazette’s campaign to safeguard services at Westmorland General.

Kenny Curwen, 73, of Endmoor, who said he has been ‘blessed’ with the ability to grow kidney stones, hernias and suffer a variety of other illnesses, is calling for the area’s health bosses to keep their ‘hands off’ the hospital, saying all services should be retained at the site.

“My friends and I reckon that I have been in and out of hospital at least 40 times in the last 40-odd years,” he said.

“So I can speak with a certain vested interest regarding the need for a local hospital.

“Having spent time in Kendal, Barrow and Lancaster hospitals, I can state quite categorically that I have had the best experiences in Kendal.”

He said he had been rushed to Lancaster in an ambulance several times, only to be kept waiting on an understaffed ward. He had also been transferred while in great pain.

“Apart from the fact that it is most inconvenient for visitors to travel to Lancaster from Kendal and try to secure a parking place when you get there, it is not a great deal of fun for people in pain to do that journey either,” continued the Greenways Drive resident.

“Heaven alone knows how much more difficult and painful it must be for the good citizens who live up in the Lake District.”

Mr Curwen is one of more than 2,000 residents now backing the Gazette’s ‘Hands off our Hospital’ campaign.

The campaign was launched after a pair of consultants at Westmorland General Hospital raised fears some services could be moved away from the site, or out of NHS control – while the Royal Lancaster Infirmary could be in line for £150m investment and Furness General Hospital another £15m.

They said they were told about the proposals by Jackie Daniel, chief executive of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), who also said the Kendal site could be ‘gifted’ to a ‘social enterprise’.

Potential changes to the site are being considered as part of the Better Care Together programme, being run by UHMBT and the Cumbria and North Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups.

As the campaign launched, Hugh Reeve, chair of the Cumbria CCG, admitted he was unable to give ‘categorical assurances’ that existing services will be maintained at WGH.

The Gazette has now received 2,074 coupons from concerned residents, which will be handed to the Better Care Together team ahead of a final decision being made.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron, who has also been campaigning to keep services at the site, has gathered thousands of signatures on a petition.

“Mr Curwen’s story sums up why we must and will win our campaign to defend the hospital – our local NHS staff are fantastic, our hospital is superb and the distances that people have to travel to other hospitals is much too far,” he said.

“I am really proud of our community – over the last few weeks, thousands of local people have stood up and said ‘hands off our hospital'.”

To back the campaign either print off and complete the coupon above or support the campaign online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RYZ5393