PROPOSALS to close Ribchester Hospital and Longridge Health Centre and transfer services to a new £2.2million site have finally been unveiled.

The East Lancashire Health Authority will tomorrow be asked to support the plans which have been under discussion for more than 10 years.

The proposal is to create a new two-storey building in St Wilfred's Terrace, Longridge. The health centre and clinic facilities will occupy the ground floor while the inpatient ward will be on the first floor.

The ward will accommodate 15 beds although there will be scope to expand to 20 if needed.

When the new building is completed, the Longridge Health Centre and Ribchester Hospital sites will be sold with the expected £850,000 proceeds going towards the £2.2million new building.

CommuniCare NHS Trust, which will provide the service, will seek ways of funding the extra running costs of about £34,500 a year.

A report to the health authority says that planning for the closure and reprovision of Ribchester Hospital has been under way for more than 10 years.

In 1988 the hospital was identified for closure by the former Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Health Authority.

In 1990 the Government gave permission to close the hospital as long as the GP beds were reprovided.

But that and several other amended proposals have since been turned down in the final stages and health chiefs have continually been forced back to the drawing board.

The latest plans have been backed by Longridge GP practices and other health professionals in the Ribble Valley.

If the health authority supports the plans, they will be submitted to the NHS Executive in the North West.

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