Chorley A&E is set to reopen sometime in September – provided that Lancashire does not witness a second spike in coronavirus cases.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) also said that the reintroduction of the service would depend on confirmation of the funding needed to make the facility Covid secure.

The department at the Euxton Lane site closed at the end of March, as part of emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.   The trust said that the move was necessary to ensure that its sister hospital, the Royal Preston, had sufficient critical care capacity to look after the most seriously ill Covid patients.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the move to “work towards” a September reopening was agreed at a meeting of board members on Tuesday evening.

However the trust has warned that a second wave or a “serious local outbreak” of coronavirus could cause the plans to be delayed – or even reversed after they have been implemented.

Karen Partington, LTH chief executive, added:  “We promised local people that we would reopen the Emergency Department at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital as soon as it is safe to do so and we will deliver on that promise.

“We are working towards a September date for this, however it is really important that everybody recognises that if Covid-19 cases begin to rise significantly, or other safety concerns are identified, we will need to revisit the situation.

“We’d like to thank our staff and the local community for their support and understanding about the need for us to continue to adapt our services and work flexibly to provide the best possible patient care during this pandemic,” Ms. Partington added.

The trust will now seek to secure funding from NHS England to make the necessary structural changes at Chorley A&E to enable the separation of Covid and non-Covid patients – and for the additional staff who will also be required to meet that criteria and help prevent infection.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has expressed his wish to see the department reopened on several occasions in the Commons in recent weeks – often as an aside to the Chorley MP and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Sir Lindsay – and neighbouring MPs Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) and Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) met with Mr. Hancock last week and were told that he had requested a “time-bound” commitment from the trust about a reopening date.

Katherine Fletcher said she noted the caveats which could yet derail the plans, but welcomed the news.

“I’m delighted to see a date confirmed for September and I look forward to this important service being reopened.   It shows the power of what we can do working together as a team of local MPs,” she added.

Sir Lindsay and Nigel Evans have been approached for comment.

When the facility does reopen, it will return to its part-time opening hours of 8am until 8pm, seven days a week, which have been in place since January 2017.

Plans to increase elective surgery have also been revealed by the trust, with further funding being sought to enable both Chorley Hospital and the Royal Preston to use some of their space more “flexibly”.

The separation of Covid-positive and negative patients within the Preston site’s A&E has meant that capacity for elective procedures has been reduced across the trust.