A MEETING was held in Todmorden Town Hall to discuss ways of preventing the hospital where Harold Shipman started his career from being closed.

The Friends of the Abraham Ormerod Centre are campaigning against Calderdale Health Authority's plans to close the hospital and shift services into the home and to other parts of the area.

Earlier this year, detectives questioned Shipman about nine suspicious deaths in 1974-75 at Todmorden, where the serial killer started his medical career. There are fears his killing spree could have started in the hospital.

There are claims that Shipman may have murdered three people in Todmorden on the same day.

The deaths happened on January 21 1975, when Shipman, who is serving life for murders in Hyde, worked at the Abraham Ormerod medical practice in the town centre.

In January this year, detectives said they were to investigate all 22 deaths certified by Shipman when he worked as a GP in Todmorden for 18 months during the 1970s.

Last year, more than 2,000 people signed a petition against the closure and 40 joined a public demonstration held outside the property on Burnley Road when the petition was presented to Calderdale MP Chris McCafferty.

Among the ideas muted at the meeting are the Friends of Abraham Ormerod taking over the lease of the building.

Joe Rez, a spokesman for the group, said: "The turnout was fantastic. There were almost 50 people there.

"We are considering putting a business plan together and are talking to companies and groups who may be interested in using the building."

Those to be approached by the Friends of Abraham Ormerod include: Age Concern, Todmorden Brass Band, Todmorden Art College and Shop Mobility.

A spokesman for Calderdale Health Care Trust said the closure would go ahead as planned, but not until replacement services were up and running.

In a statement, the trust said: "The closure of Abraham Ormerod to provide better, more modern health care services for the elderly mentally ill and the frail elderly is just one part of Calderdale's Community Development plan.

"The decision to close Abraham Ormerod was made by the health authority as part of the redevelopment of community services to provide a first-class, modern health service for the people of Calderdale, closer to their homes."