HOSPITAL bosses are being warned they must keep all Victoria Infirmary’s current services in Northwich after it was revealed they are looking for new premises.

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the site along with Leighton Hospital and Elmhurst, has announced it is considering moving facilities to the proposed public services hub at Weaver Square.

John Church, deputy chairman at the trust, said last week that it is ‘not really cost-effective’ to invest in the hospital, in Winnington Hill – and the trust has since confirmed it could close the hospital if it can provide services at ‘better facilities in Northwich’.

It also said that Victoria Infirmary is suffering with subsidence as a result of salt mining and a nearby railway line.

Liam Byrne was a key figure in the Save our Northwich Inpatients Campaign (SONIC), which began fighting against the closure of the infirmary’s inpatients wards in 2006.

“Like the NHS itself, the Victoria Infirmary has been loved and valued by the people of Northwich for generations,” he said.

“Therefore, whisperings by unnamed spokesmen unsupported by any verifiable facts about its future are bound to cause concern to patients – particularly fears that existing services will be transferred to Crewe or even further away.

“By coincidence, 10 years ago the front page of the Guardian carried a report about an announcement by the Central and Eastern Cheshire Primary Care Trust that a new community hospital, including an inpatients unit, would be built in Northwich.

“With far more residents now and an older population, perhaps it is time to deliver on that promise. Whatever happens, all of the current services must be maintained.”

The trust says that ‘significant’ work would be required to bring the inpatient wards closed in 2010 back into use and to a required standard – after the old mixed-sex wards previously failed an electrical test and would struggle to accommodate modern patient hoists.

A full public consultation would take place once the trust has concrete plans on relocation from Victoria Infirmary, and the trust says it is looking to ‘enhance’ its offering in Northwich.

Cllr Sam Naylor, Labour member for Winnington and Castle on Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “I have not got a problem with a big public sector hub, but my red line is there should be no dilution of the current services that Victoria Infirmary has got.

“I use it, I can go there to get an x-ray, I can give a blood sample, it has a big physiotherapy department there and a hydrotherapy pool.

“I have got no problem with a new site but it would have to have at least the facilities that Victoria Infirmary has now.”

Cllr Gaynor Sinar, Conservative member for Davenham and Moulton, agreed it would be ‘a shame’ if the hospital closes – but believes there could be no alternative if it is suffering from subsidence.

She said: “If Victoria Infirmary is beginning to sink then we are fighting a losing battle. You could throw money at it and would still have to move it anyway.

“I believe the plans for a new one in the town centre are going to be more up to date, it’s going to be quite a big facility for the town.

“The gyratory has not helped people find Victoria Infirmary – if it was in the middle of town and you could get a bus to it that has got to be a benefit.”

However, Cllr Naylor admits news of the hospital suffering from subsidence came as a surprise.

He added: “Where has that come from? They might well be right but I would like to see the evidence.

“The railway has not had a train on it for donkey’s years and there are no plans to resurrect a railway there. I would rather they would be up front and just say that the site they are in now is not fit for purpose.”

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed it still owns and manages the hospital.