COUNCILLORS who met with Victoria Infirmary’s chief executive have welcomed his commitment to providing new facilities in Northwich in the years ahead.

In an open letter sent to the Guardian on Wednesday and written to Northwich residents, James Sumner pledged a bright future for the town’s medical facilities.

The chief executive of Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed work is ongoing to find a way of providing ‘equivalent and hopefully enhanced’ services in a ‘state of the art’ building.

Northwich Labour members of Cheshire West and Chester Council met with Mr Sumner two days before the open letter, expressing their concerns about the recent decision to keep the minor injuries unit’s opening hours to weekday daytimes only.

They welcomed Mr Sumner’s announcement of work towards a new site, as well as his commitment to restore the unit’s opening hours once it is safe to do so.

Cllr Kate Cernik, Winnington and Castle member and former nurse practitioner, said: “Since the news broke on the delay in restoring the minor injuries unit to its previous hours, we have been working flat out to get some clarity on the reasons behind it, and to push to have services restored as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We had a very constructive meeting with Mr Sumner on Monday in which we pushed hard for openness and transparency on the reasons for the delay, and a commitment to see services restored.

“I’m delighted to see the trust has been able to make that commitment publicly.”

Cllr Sam Naylor, Witton member and former Winnington and Castle councillor, added: “I’ve been working for a number of years now with council officers and the NHS to get modern healthcare facilities in Northwich that are fit for our growing population.

“The commitment made by Mid Cheshire Hospitals today to invest in services in Northwich and provide a state of the art service is a huge and important milestone.

“I look forward to continue working with the trust to see the vision for this new facility realised.”

More than 5,000 people had signed a petition calling on Mr Sumner to restore the unit’s hours and protect Victoria Infirmary’s services before the open letter was published.

Lee Siddall, who organised the petition, said: "I would like to thank everyone who signed the petition and also the Guardian for publicising it – without that it would not have got as much support as it did."

Mid Cheshire Hospitals last spoke about its intention to find a new home for Northwich’s medical facilities two years ago, when it revealed subsidence issues at Victoria Infirmary.

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Residents with long memories will recall that the now defunct Central and Eastern Cheshire Primary Care Trust gave the green light for a state of the art medical facility in Northwich back in April 2008, but the plans never came to fruition.

Liam Byrne, a prominent campaigner in the Save our Northwich Inpatients Campaign at the time, said: “We must hope that any similar promise made at this time will be honoured. It is needed now more than ever.”

To read the open letter from Mr Sumner in full, click here.