My hon. Friend has made one of my points for me. None of the major hospitals in east Cheshire lie within my constituency, although it is reasonably large, so my constituents must travel some distance to use their services.
I have mentioned the four-hour GP appointments on Saturdays and Sundays. They are always full, and are meeting a very clear local need. The convenience of such services cannot be overstated. During my visit, an elderly gentleman, clearly frail, arrived asking for directions to the X-ray department. I watched as he was directed to it immediately. He was seen, and he departed. All that happened within what seemed to me to be about three minutes flat.
The value of such local services for a population like mine, which contains a higher than average number of older residents, cannot be overstated. They are particularly appreciated by those who are less mobile owing to age or infirmity, or for whom a lack of convenient public transport facilities would make travel to the larger hospitals outside my constituency very difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, 9,000 fewer out-patient appointments across east Cheshire must reduce congestion.
The trust informs me that the Congleton Hospital site also has space for use by other NHS organisations, including providers of mental health and health visiting services. As local health partners and providers increasingly work together in support of their local communities’ health and wellbeing, Congleton Hospital, located as it is almost in the centre of the town, is ideally placed to become an even more strategic community health hub for additional services.