THE future of Burnley General Hospital’s existing site is uncertain after health chiefs refused to rule out further closures.
The beleaguered hospital has seen many cuts to its services in recent years, with many departments and staff moved to Blackburn, but it appears there is no end in sight to the cull.
Concerned community leaders met hospital chiefs to discuss the future of the hospital, but were not given many assurances.
Former Labour MP Peter Pike, Coun. Julie Cooper and Azhar Ali, former chairman of Burnley Health Care NHS Trust, met Mark Brearly, chief executive of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and Hazel Harding, chairman of the Trust.
Concerns were raised about the continued removal of medical services from Burnley General.
Mr Brearly later revealed there were now seven disused wards at the hospital, and gave no assurances on the future of the former Edith Watson building, currently being used for administration.
Parents in Burnley were furious when the Deerplay children’s ward was closed in December.
Mr Brearly also revealed pathology and mortuary services at the site are under review with no guarantees these services will be delivered in Burnley. Already much of the pathology department has been moved to Blackburn.
The rehabilitation and in-patient service at Pendle Community Hospital, Nelson, which offers services to stroke victims, is also being reviewed.
Coun. Cooper said: “I have serious concerns about the future of Burnley General Hospital and this meeting did nothing to reassure me. We have seven wards closed and no guarantee there won’t be more.
“Our MP Gordon Birtwistle has not kept his promise to return Accident and Emergency services to Burnley nor has he stopped the exodus of services to Blackburn.”
But Mr Birtwistle hit back saying there were now more ambulances coming to Burnley than when he became MP. He said the loss of most services were decided under the Meeting Patients Needs plan of 2006 when Kitty Ussher was MP – a document he described as “the biggest con and cover-up Burnley has ever had.”
He added: “In future, local doctors and local authorities will make decisions on the budgets for hospitals and not faceless bureaucrats who have been completely aloof to the wishes of Burnley people.
“In the short term, I have concerns for the hospital but hopefully when the doctors’ commissioning bodies are up and running in 2013 we will have more accountable decisions.”
Meanwhile, health chiefs have confirmed land, where wards once stood, will soon go up for sale, but will not specify which areas have been earmarked. It is thought part of the site, off Briercliffe Road, where the old Burnley Workhouse stood and where most of the older wards and offices have been demolished, could be one of them.