CONCERNS have been raised over the money spent on a new tourism health hotline for visitors to the South Lakes. 

This is operated under Cumbria Health on Call on behalf of the Grange and Lakes Primary Care Network (PCN).

It is for any visitors to the region who are not registered with a GP in the South Lakes can now call 03000 247 247. 

However, the £170,000 plan has been controversial. Last year, Ambleside and Hawkshead surgeries were at risk of closure when their GPs left. The surgeries had £73,000 of funding withdrawn. 

At the time, Hawkshead business owner Maria Whitehead penned an open letter which said: "Can I ask you to envisage a moment when you are enjoying a day out in the Lakes and one member of your family suddenly becomes acutely unwell, what do you do? Do you look around for a poster that tells you to ring a number?" 

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron still disagrees with the plan: "I think it would be far better to give that money to surgeries.

"We never would have had the crisis at Ambleside. It seems like a lot of money to achieve not much more. It costs more to provide health services in communities which are so rural and sparsely populated, so pay surgeries properly for taking care of visitors."

He said that visitors should just use the existing 111 service. Mr Farron accused the regional health bosses, who operate the PCN under Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board of "reinventing the wheel." 

Grange and Lakes PCN director Dr Julie Colclough said: "The Lake District sees many visitors every year and it is inevitable that some of those people will require medical attention and advice.

"The Tourist Health Hotline allows those in need to get their needs assessed and managed whilst allowing practices to continue to care for the residents living and working in the area.”

Gill Haigh, the managing director of Cumbria Tourism agreed with Dr Colclough. She said: "Cumbria Tourism welcomes this initiative making the process clearer for visitors to ensure they can access appropriate healthcare services whilst at the same time helping ensure this works as smoothly and efficiently for our GPs"