DOZENS of local people have bravely spoken out to highlight the importance of the Gazette’s Hands off our Hospital campaign.

Residents from across the community have shared their reasons for backing the call for services to be safeguarded at Westmorland General Hospital, as the number of responses tops 1,400 after just two weeks.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that it’s even been suggested that some services might be taken away,” said Marion Butterfield, 75, of Milnthorpe, who had to travel to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) for cancer treatment.

“When you’ve had eight hours of chemo, crawling through Lancaster’s traffic is no joke.”

She explained that she had to use the RLI because opening hours at Westmorland General Hospital’s chemotherapy centre were not long enough.

“To even be considering taking services from WGH is awful because so many people rely on them and it is so convenient for people in this area. There should be more, not less.”

The 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 RLI could be in line for £150m investment and Furness General Hospital (FGH) 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.

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

“We’re looking at it from a purely selfish point of view, but we’re pensioners and we’ve paid taxes all our lives and we think Barrow is too far away – we need a good range of services in Kendal,” said Antony Entwistle, of The Esplanade, Grange, who responded to the campaign.

“The health service is wonderful and we need to protect it. Westmorland hospital should be looked after.”

Andy Mortimer, of Grange-over-Sands, who has travelled 4,000 miles since last September for treatment for cancer at WGH, FGH, RLI and Preston, said: “The time and cost of this, the unpredictability of traffic and weather, all conspire to make being seriously ill in South Cumbria even more stressful.

“Please do not do anything to worsen this situation by closing or impoverishing the Westmorland General Hospital.”

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