EAST Lancashire’s long-awaited new purpose-built kidney dialysis unit has taken a step closer to finally becoming a reality.

The planning application for the ‘game changing’ £1million- plus development near the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital has finally been submitted.

Originally health bosses hoped the unit would open early this year but opening has been delayed to April next year.

It will double the current provision for renal patients across East Lancashire.

Currently two temporary units in the Haslingden Road hospital grounds accommodate six dialysis stations.

The new building, to be operating by the Preston-based Lancashire Teaching Hospitals will quadruple treatment capacity by offering 26 stations.

It will relieve pressure on the 15 station unit at Burnley General Teaching Hospital where many patients now go because of lack of capacity at Blackburn.

The new unit was originally proposed in 2012 with the hope of opening the following year but has been repeatedly delayed.

Last year following the completion of the sale of a 3,362 sq ft site in Old Bank Lane between Blackburn with Darwen Council and the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, it was hoped the much-delayed scheme would open this summer.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patients Voices Group, said there had been further problems for the joint project with specialist provider Fresenius Medical Care.

He said: “It is really good news planning permission has gone in

“This unit really is a game changer for hundreds of patients.

“I was getting concerned as there have been several stumbling blocks along the way.

“This is has taken a long time but better late than never.”

Fresenius operates the current temporary units at the Royal Blackburn and were given a glowing report from the Care Quality Commission in its last inspection.

Last year Burnley MP Julie Cooper hailed the scheme as really good news for her constituents.

Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “ We have been working closely with patients, local partners and specialist suppliers, to develop plans for a replacement, purpose-built and modern dialysis unit in Blackburn to enable more patients to be treated closer to home.”

James Maguire, general manager for estates at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The planned new unit will replace the existing facility which is located in a temporary building and will provide high quality facilities that patients and staff expect from the modern NHS.”

Dialysis machines replicate many of the kidney’s functions, filtering the blood of harmful waste, extra salt, and water.