PROPOSALS for a purpose-built renal haemodialysis unit in Blackburn have been welcomed by councillors.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust clinical director for renal services, Dr Mark Brady, updated members of Blackburn with Darwen Council’s people overview and scrutiny committee on the scheme at a meeting.

Currently, the service in Blackburn is based in a portacabin.

But Dr Brady said it was hoped a new unit could go ahead on or near Royal Blackburn Hospital.

NHS bosses say the change is necessary to improve the availability and quality of care closer to patients’ homes.

Many patients travel longer than the national standard of 30 minutes to their nearest renal unit.

Some facilities are not fit for purpose or are situated in an inconvenient location.

There are recruitment challenges at more than one unit which restricts opening hours and the service is not financially sustainable.

Dr Brady said it was hoped new services would be run directly by NHS staff rather than through private providers

Committee members were supportive of the proposed change and offered their backing.

In East Lancashire dialysis services are currently provided in Accrington, Burnley and Blackburn.

The unit at Accrington is structurally inadequate, unfit for purpose, and does not provide a good patient experience.

The rent for the Burnley facility is prohibitively high and is a significant cost pressure to the sustainability of the service in this area.

The service at Accrington and Burnley is provided by Diaverum, and by Fresenius at Blackburn, both specialist renal agencies overseen by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals consultants.

A new 24-station unit in Blackburn was first proposed in 2012 and was due to open in 2013, but has been repeatedly delayed.

In 2016 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 the following summer.

But despite planning permission being granted, patients are still waiting for a purpose-built renal unit in Blackburn.