THE ageing inpatients block at Northwich's Victoria Infirmary (VIN) could be replaced by a state of the art community hospital.

It would have 10 more beds and will cater for patients with intermediate, rehabilitation and palliative or end of life care needs. It would replace the existing 20-bed unit and provide a range of other medical services still being developed.

The project's steering group this week confirmed the need for a unit providing intermediate care for people facing unnecessary prolonged stays in main hospitals. Rehabilitation, usually following a stroke, will allow therapists and nurses to manage a patient's recovery programme in a smaller unit, while palliative care beds allow support and respite care from specialist nursing teams.

Fiona Field, director of strategic planning at Central and Eastern Cheshire Primary Care Trust, said: 'This decision is really good news for the people of Northwich.

'It means the future of services provided from VIN, which has built a well-deserved excellent reputation for patient care, is bright and will be enhanced with the provision of these new facilities.

'The PCT is preparing to put forward the proposal as part of a wider plan to develop intermediate care and services outside hospitals.'

Members of the Save Our Northwich Inpatients Campaign (SONIC) , which teamed up with the PCT to save services, welcomed the move. Spokesman Liam Byrne said: 'I understand that the NHS is soon to invite tenders for the new community hospital building. This is positive evidence that it will keep its promises and that the cynics who say that the wards are doomed will be proved wrong.

'There is still much to be done and SONIC intends to keep up the pressure until the new facility is fully operational.'

A bid to a £750m Government fund for cottage hospitals is now expected and Ms Field added: 'We will continue to consult to help ensure we all gain maximum benefit from a significant investment in the health of the community.'

* To make comments on the plans, contact Geoff Wood on 01270 275281 or e-mail