Super health plan put under review

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A long-awaited super surgery in Chorley could become the latest victim of budget cuts.

The ambitious plans for a state-of-the-art medical centre in Chorley East was first announced more than six years ago when the NHS Primary Care Trust identified a site for it in Friday Street.

But, the proposals were put on ice, and the Guardian can now reveal that they are under review as part of cost-cutting measures.

Coun Julia Berry, who represents the area, has spoken out to demand answers from the National Health Service.

She said: “Chorley East has been clearly identified as being in desperate need of a new surgery and this is totally unacceptable.

“People contact me all the time asking what is going on, and enough is enough.

“We need answers and solutions, not vague promises sometime in the future. I’m demanding that after years of false starts, urgent action is taken.”

She added: “Nothing has changed over the past six years. It’s just been indecision after indecision, which is not only wasting public money, but also residents’ time and patience.”

The NHS has revealed that the plans have been put under review, after the Department of Health estimated that it needs to make savings of around £20bn nationally by 2015.

Jeannette Newman, NHS Central Lancashire acting deputy chief executive, said: “We are still committed to developing a health facility in Chorley East and have already bought land on Friday Street.

“We had hoped to start the procurement process for the facility in late 2010, with a preferred developer appointed in 2011.

“But since the scheme was first proposed, the environment has changed significantly.

“The NHS is undergoing a major reform programme and the UK has been affected by a global recession.

“This has caused a delay in proceeding for planning permission.

“Given this tough financial climate, we need to make sure that every penny is spent wisely for the benefit of the taxpayer, and that the NHS can afford any ongoing running costs.”

She said the Lancashire PCT Cluster Board would first have to approve the scheme, which is being set up as part of the NHS reform programme.

Approval will then need to be sought from NHS North West, a requirement which has been put in place by the Secretary of State for Health, because PCTs will cease to exist after March 2013.

Ms Newman added: “The review will be concluded this summer. Approval would then need to be sought from the Lancashire PCT Cluster Board and NHS North West.”