A GOVERNMENT announcement of plans for large scale investment in the NHS has sparked a mixed reaction in the South Lakeland area.

The news, which came at the start of this week's Conservative Party conference, was accompanied by confirmation of further funding for rural digital coverage and transport improvements, including a completion of dualling of the A66.

Health chiefs in the region broadly welcomed the hospital investment, but MP Tim Farron expressed his anger that no money has been strictly allocated for Westmorland General Hospital (WGI) and fellow MP John Woodcock attacked the "lack of clarity" in the proposals.

The proposals include a £2.7bn investment for six new hospitals over five years, with the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT) allocated a share of an initial £100m to fund research and planning to explore the creation of one of these hospitals.

Aaron Cummins, UHMBT chief executive, said he was "delighted" at the announcement.

"I’m particularly pleased for patients and our hard working colleagues who do their very best, day-in day-out, often in stressful, complex and emotional circumstances," he said.

And Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris expressed his delight at the news.

“For many months I have been lobbying the Health Secretary for major improvements to our local hospital the RLI," he said.

"Our hospital buildings have been crying out for investment to build on the fantastic work of both the staff and the management team getting out Trust out of special measures."

But Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Mr Farron was bitterly disappointed no money had been allocated for WGI.

“This announcement is all talk and no trousers," he said.

“They mention millions to be spent on hospitals in our area but that won’t be for another decade and they refuse to say where the money is coming from.

“And to add further insult to injury the announcement mentions Barrow and Lancaster but there’s not a single penny to be spent on the Westmorland General in Kendal."

And Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock also expressed his disquiet.

“I will be pushing for more detail and keep fighting for every penny our NHS desperately needs but we cannot pin our hopes on a vague cheque dated 10 years from now,” he said.

But plans for the dualling of the entire length of the A66 from Penrith to Scotch Corner and an additional £5 billion of Government funding to roll full-fibre, 5G and other gigabit capable networks to rural areas, which would include much of the South Lakeland area, received a positive response.

“Better connectivity is key to unleashing the economic potential of the countryside, and we welcome that Government is listening to the concerns of rural communities," said Country Land and Business Association president Tim Breitmeyer.

“Ending the rural/urban digital divide will support rural businesses to create jobs, enable people to access services, allow agriculture to embrace the technological revolution and persuade more tourists to visit."