COMMUNITY leaders have labelled as 'disgraceful' proposals to axe inpatient services at Northwich's Victoria Infirmary.
The Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust board discussed the future of the infirmary on Monday after drawing up a plan with the Central Cheshire Primary Care Trust for the its development.
It recommends an expansion of outpatient and ambulatory care services to create an 'outpatients centre of excellence', but also the withdrawal of inpatients services.
Health chiefs say the plans are by no means a 'done deal' but will spell a 'thriving future for the hospital'. They say cutbacks are needed as it would cost up to £3m to modernise the in-patient unit, and that its services would still be provided in other ways.
But Northwich Mayor Lesley Cotterill said getting rid of 'vital' services would be a disgrace. She said: 'There are not many beds anyway and if we get rid of those, patients will have to go to Leighton three bus journeys away.
'I know it's an old building but it's in better nick than most of the modern hospitals. It's well run, clean and tidy, the staff make me very welcome and the hospital is a credit to them.'
Alderman Ron Carey, ex-president of the infirmary's League of Friends, said: 'It plays a vital part in the town. I would hate to see any beds taken away. There are a lot of terminally ill patients who need the facilities to remain open. We also need to keep the beds because there are times when Leighton doesn't have any space.'
A former senior nurse described the decision as extremely worrying. She said: 'It provides an oasis of good care, a place where the elderly can be confident
of receiving good nursing care. Everyone will be upset if this goes ahead.'
Trust chairman Alan White said: 'The 31-bed inpatient unit requires an investment of between £2m and £3m just to meet modern building and safety regulations. Given that, and the relatively small numbers of patients currently looked after on the unit, we believe they should be cared for in other, more appropriate, locations.'