CAMPAIGNERS hope a promised injection of £750m by the Government will save a ward at Northwich's Victoria Infirmary (VIN) from closure.

Action group Save Our Northwich Inpatients Campaign (SONIC) hopes VIN will benefit from extra funding for community hospitals announced last week by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

They have collected 12,500 signatures opposing Mid-Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust's plans to withdraw inpatient services and expand VIN's outpatient services in order to create a 'centre of excellence.' The trust says the changes are necessary as it would cost up to £3m to modernise the in-patient unit.

Campaign chairman June Chapman said: 'These patients need to be in a hospital close to home, not as far away as Leighton Hospital. There is a need there and we will be demanding they apply for the extra funding.'

Meanwhile, the Central Cheshire Primary Care Trust announced this week that the infirmary's future will no longer be discussed at a public consultation into local services at the town's memorial hall next week. Instead, a separate consultation process will now begin in mid-August.

PCT chief executive Mike Pyrah said: 'We have recognised that we need to make sure that the issues relating to the inpatient facility are understood before commencing a formal 12-week consultation.'

SONIC welcomed news of the withdrawal, saying the trust had not yet provided enough information for a fair consultation.

Consultation on other plans to improve health services in the area continues with the public meeting at Northwich Memorial Hall at 2pm on Tuesday, July 24. Copies of the VIN consultation paper will be available afterwards on 0800 587 7888 or by e-mailing