MP Cat Smith meets with health minister to demand hospital services stay in Lancaster

Lancaster MP Cat Smith met Health Minister Edward Argar on Monday to discuss the future of the Royal Lancaster Infirmary following concerns health services may be replaced by a ‘super’ hospital outside of the district.

By Michelle Blade
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 3:45 pm

NHS organisations, councils and community groups in Lancashire and South Cumbria are currently collaborating to determine whether the RLI is fit for purpose or whether, under the government’s New Hospitals Programme to propose the building of a new health facility.

“One of the suggestions from the Department of Health was to replace the RLI with a new ‘super’ hospital built somewhere near the M6 and serving patients from Cumbria down to Preston,” said Ms Smith. “Both patients and clinicians tell me this would be a terrible idea and I agree. I told the minister that I believe health services should be delivered locally allowing ease of access for the majority.”

Ms Smith highlighted the complex geography of the region with many patients living in rural areas where there are fewer transport options.

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Cat Smith MP and health minister Ed Argar.

“Knocking down the RLI and replacing it with a super hospital 15 miles away would mean many people simply wouldn’t be able to attend appointments. At the same time the RLI is very old and the cost of maintaining the sprawling complex is phenomenal. I’d rather that money was spent on building a new local hospital, one that is fit for the future, rather than repeatedly patching up a sick building.”

Clinicians say this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our ageing hospital and develop new, cutting-edge hospital facilities that offer the absolute best in modern healthcare.

“Staff tell me the existing hospital lacks space and storage, theatres are too small, and much of the site is located on a slope, which in some areas is too steep for patients to be safely moved except by ambulance,” said Ms Smith. “This means access to much of the site is challenging for people with a disability. Single room provision is only 50% of the recommended standard capacity and there are around 20 separate buildings to navigate causing operational difficulties and discomfort for patients.”

Mr Argar and Natalie Forrest the Senior Responsible Officer of the New Hospital Programme told Ms Smith they accepted her arguments, reassuring her that “a big new hospital in Lancashire that serves no-one, is not on the cards at the moment - but that it’s up to local decision makers to own all the options and propose something new.”

“It’s really important that local people have their say,” said Ms Smith. “I urge everyone to get involved and share why they think our hospital services should remain local. And it’s not just about health – having a local hospital brings people to live and work here, our economy benefits and we create future employment opportunities for our young people allowing us to retain the talent of those who come here to university.”

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