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Tim challenges Minister to protect local rural health services as NHS review looms

July 4, 2017 1:02 PM

Today South Lakes MP Tim Farron has used a question in the House of Commons to demand a guarantee that the Westmorland General Hospital, and the services provided there, be protected in the government's upcoming health review.

The review will make recommendations this November and it is feared that the review could be bad news for rural areas. Tim pointed out that the review, known as a 'sustainability and transformation partnership', lumps together "sparsely populated and rural" South Cumbria with "largely urban" Lancashire.

Tim highlighted his concern that if the majority of those making the decisions are from urban areas, then South Cumbria and other rural areas could see their voices "dwarfed" and lose out. The Lancashire and South Cumbria STP has got to make £572million of cuts to health services.

In response to Tim's question, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt worryingly refused to rule out downgrading WGH, but did concede that the hospital had a "very important future" and that more work was needed to improve ambulance response times in South Cumbria.

Tim said: "The government's review of our health services in the South Lakes will be decided by officials mostly from urban areas. I am determined that our area is not overlooked by those who have no experience of life in rural areas and the challenges we face, particularly with long journey times to access vital services.

"The importance of our hospital and local services is particularly highlighted this week, as we mark the 25th anniversary of Westmorland General Hospital.

"I'm glad I managed to get the Health Secretary to rule out closure of WGH today, but sadly he refused to rule out cuts to services. Our campaign to protect our hospital must and will continue."