IT CLOSED its doors more than 18 months ago, but residents are set to finally get their chance to plead for their rural hospital back.
A date for public consultation over the future of Wesham Hospital has been repeatedly promised by health bosses - and it is now scheduled to go ahead in October.
The hospital was “mothballed” back in January last year and patients moved to St Annes’ Clifton Hospital, but councillors said despite the long wait for consultation residents were still desperate to see their hospital return.
Coun Linda Nulty, who represents Wesham on Fylde Council, said: “A consultation sounds brilliant but we’ve heard there is going to be one for almost two years.
“I look forward to seeing what their vision (for the future) is and I hope it fits in with our vision, which is to get that hospital up and running again because I believe there’s a great need for it.
“In the time it’s been closed I’ve had a lot of people coming to me saying they have someone in Clifton Hospital in St Annes and it’s do difficult for them to access.”
Last year it had emerged Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had sought legal advice on whether it could avoid a public consultation and close the hospital - a rehabilitation unit - on “purely financial considerations” rather than clinical evidence.
Lawyers reportedly advised the trust to let the hospital become “run down” and then hold a reduced-length consultation – although the trust always insisted it made the decision to close the 40-bed unit based on clinical need.
But councillors have repeatedly pressed for consultation, and the proposals for the end of October will see NHS Blackpool, NHS North Lancashire and the trust consult on their “vision of providing improved rehabilitation”.
County Coun Liz Oades said: “I welcome the consultation, albeit 12 months late - this consultation should have taken place last year and I’m not at all happy with the acute trust’s delay.
“I think the public still want and need Wesham hospital and in an area this size we deserve to have a facility which is easily accessible.”
A spokesman for the trust said: “A public consultation is scheduled for the end of October about the proposals for Fylde coast hospitals rehabilitation services.
“A consultation document is being finalised in partnership with clinicians, including GPs and hospital consultants, which will outline the proposals to support the vision of providing improved rehabilitation.
“A number of public consultation events will be held throughout the Fylde coast during a planned 12-week period where members of the public will be encouraged to give their views.”