WESTMORLAND General Hospital has so much unused space, it could be utilised to host services for other trusts.

That is the upbeat vision of new Morecambe Bay health boss Eric Morton, who has been charged with turning round the troubled trust that runs the Kendal hospital.

Mr Morton, who is two weeks into the job of chief executive at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT), said he wanted to find ways of using WGH’s spare capacity, created when services were moved from the hospital.

Among facilities lost was the hospital’s heart unit, but there was no suggestion by Mr Morton that this would be returned.

However, he anticipated the ‘surplus space’ at WGH could prove beneficial if UHMBT became involved in ‘tie-ups’ with other specialist trusts. One such arrangement with Blackpool’s renowned heart unit has already been suggested by Mr Morton’s boss, UHMBT board chairman Sir David Henshaw.

Mr Morton said: “This could lead to two-way traffic, with staff from specialist units coming to Kendal to provide follow up care or conduct outpatients’ appointments. The aim would be to maximise patient care as close to their homes as possible, as long as it complies with best national practice and doesn’t compromise patient care.

“Another idea could be to host services at Westmor-land General for other trusts.

“To do this, we would need to encourage local commissioning groups lead by GPs to look at what the trust can provide.”

He acknowledged that providing radiotherapy treatment at the hospital, which thousands of south Cumbrians have signed petitions in support of, would be one way of utilising some of the spare capacity.

However, Mr Morton said there was no prospect of accident and emergency services ever being provided at WGH.

“There just wouldn’t be the numbers of patients to sustain an Accident and Emergency department,” he said.

He admitted one of his principle concerns was to address issues of staff morale, which were reportedly at ‘rock bottom’ under the previous trust regime.

“I recently met with medical staff in Barrow (Furness General Hospital) to discuss the issues and it was very challenging, but not confrontational,” said Morton. “There was a general understanding that we need to work hard to get it right. We have got some issues with some services, but there are also some terrific services. While I’ve detected a lot of enthusiasm among staff at the trust, who are up to being involved in making improvements, we have lost their clinical engagement.

“The most successful hospitals have good engagement from doctors and nurses who take responsibility for driving clinical services forward.”