Hospital campaigners in Wigton are optimistic after talks about their alternative plan to save beds were said to be “positive”.

Cumbrian peer Lord Roger Liddle, who is county councillor for Wigton, has held informal talks with Success Regime bosses.

He used the forum to press its chairman, Sir Neil McKay, about the alternative option drawn up by locals fighting to stop the planned closure of all of the town’s hospital beds.

All four options put forward by the Regime in its Healthcare for the Future consultation would see beds in Wigton close.

The alternative, dubbed Option Five by campaigners, proposes retaining the beds as part of a new build hospital that would also combine social care beds.

They say the aim would be to provide a wide range of joined up care both in hospital and the community.

In a report to Wigton town council, Lord Liddle said he had spoken to Sir Neil just before Christmas to test his reactions to the Wigton plan, which was launched publicly in December.

He said: “These were generally very positive.

“He was greatly impressed by the local commitment to partnership working to create a genuine integrated care community.

“He thought the ideas in Option Five promised what he described as a ‘fascinating and exciting future’.

“He saw the next step as moving on to developing a “costed business case” for the Option Five Plan.”

Lord Liddle added: “I welcomed his positive reaction but said that, given the progress that had been made towards the integrated working he favoured as the future model for Cumbria, it was surely wrong to press ahead with the bed closures.”

He said Sir Neil stressed that the final decision would be taken not by him but by NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group.

But Lord Liddle said: “He described the argument I had made for not pressing ahead with the reduction in beds as originally planned, as ‘well made’.

“In other words he was positive in tone but at the same time non committal.

“He also added that he had never argued for a sudden closure but for a ‘carefully organised transition’.”

He hopes that the beds will now be saved, at least while a full business case is properly drawn up and analysed.

But he added: “The key will be whether there is sufficient NHS money available to fund a future model of integrated care.”