MORE than 500 people have signed a petition fighting against 'privatisation' plans at Airedale General Hospital.

The petition, created by Bob Thorp, is calling on the hospital's board of directors to shelve their plans to create a private company to run hospital facilities, estates and purchasing.

The hospital, which takes patients from Colne, said no final decisions have been made.

The petition states: "The Directors of Airedale NHS Trust are about to transfer the staff who run hospital buildings, grounds and purchasing departments in to a private company.

"This private company can only provide cheaper services to the hospital if it cuts jobs and erodes and terms and conditions: pay, pensions and sick pay of existing and future employees.

"Lower wages and increased work will hit morale, make it harder for working families to make ends meet and hit our local economy.

"The NHS is not only a provider of health care for all, free at the point of need, but an important provider of good quality, fairly paid jobs."

A spokeswoman for Airedale NHS Foundation Trust said they are currently looking at the feasibility of forming a subsidiary organisation wholly owned by the Trust but the board of directors has not yet made a decision.

She said: "Establishing a separate company to run these services would enable them to work together more efficiently, run their own budgets, make their own decisions and bid for other contracts, while at the same time keeping them in the Airedale family, supporting our clinical services to provide high quality care for our patients."

She added they are committed to consulting with staff.