WESTMORLAND General Hospital is an integral part of the Kendal community.

It provides a range of services on the doorstep of people who live in the heart of South Lakeland. It is a reassuring presence, letting local people know their health needs are being taken seriously.

That is why it was so disturbing to learn last week one option apparently being considered as part of the Better Care Together review of services across Morecambe Bay is to potentially move some services to Lancaster.

It was also suggested the site could be ‘gifted’ to a social enterprise.

And that is why The Westmorland Gazette has launched its Hands off our Hospital campaign, urging people to tell health bosses the future of our local hospital must be safeguarded.

It aims to make it clear to decision-makers that local people will not tolerate WGH being downgarded and services like maternity and chemotherapy being moved elsewhere, potentially leading to longer journeys for healthcare.

Neither should we accept anyone other than the NHS having responsibility for the site - if the NHS is not the dominant presence, control could slip to outside bodies and WGH turn into a shadow of its former self.

Health chiefs might say nothing has been decided yet and the proposals mentioned above are simply ‘blue-sky thinking’. Indeed, Hugh Reeve, chair of Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said this week gifting the site to a social enterprise had not been discussed within Better Care Together.

However, concerned consultants have told the Gazette such ideas seemed fairly developed when presented by acute hospitals trust chief executive Jackie Daniel two weeks ago.

Ms Daniel this week stated the outcome of the review was unlikely to be simply a ‘tinker’ around the edges.

No one knows for sure what eventually will be proposed for Kendal’s hospital.

But let’s lay down a strong marker now - hands off our hospital!