A COMMONS debate over the future of smaller hospitals could spell success for the Gazette’s campaign to safeguard services at Westmorland General (WGH).

NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, told a Commons health committee that ‘merging or closing’ smaller sites might not be the answer and has urged colleagues to ‘get creative’ in a bid to sustain hospitals such as WGH, Kendal.

“It may well be if we get creative about what it would take, it may not be a question of merging or closing as some would seem to think,” he told MPs.

The news comes just weeks after the Gazette launched its ‘Hands off our Hospital’ campaign, following revelations that services at the site could be moved elsewhere.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron, whose own campaign has mirrored the Gazette’s, has hailed the news.

“This could have a massive impact on our campaign to protect Westmorland General,” he said.

“Local NHS bosses repeated like a mantra ‘NHS England says this or that’ and they have followed their commands to the letter.

“Now it seems that NHS England has agreed that local community hospitals are vital, something health campaigners like myself have been arguing for years.”

The Gazette’s campaign was launched after a pair of consultants at WGH 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 (CCG).

Since then, Hugh Reeve, chair of the Cumbria CCG, has admitted he cannot give ‘categorical assurances’ that existing services will be maintained at WGH.

“I will be asking Simon Stevens to speak to the local clinical commissioning group and help protect our hospital,” added Mr Farron.

The Gazette has now received almost 2,500 coupons from concerned residents, which will be handed to the Better Care Together team ahead of a final decision being made.

The coupons have come from as far away as Middlesex.

Mr Farron’s campaign has also gathered thousands of signatures on a petition.

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

* If you have a story to share about Westmroland General Hospital pelase contact reporter Anna Clarke on anna.clarke@kendal.newsquest.co.uk or telephone 01539 790257.