A health watchdog has welcomed plans to build a new Urgent Care Centre at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.

Commissioners said the unit, for patients with minor injuries and ailments, will ease pressure on staff in the accident and emergency department.

A planning application has been submitted to Chorley Council, which claims the unit could divert about 70 per cent of patients from A&E, to be treated by GPs and nurses instead of specialist consultants.

The new centre would act as the front end to A&E, to maximise the number of patients that can be filtered out.

The Chorley and Leyland Citizen has asked how much the centre will cost, and whether it would result in any reduction in A&E staff, but an NHS spokesman said these discussions have not yet taken place.

Chorley councillor Steven Holgate, who is also chairman of Lancashire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said: “This is a step in the right direction as it will free up clinicians to focus on patients who need emergency care.”

He also welcomed plans to move the GP out-of-hours service onto the hospital site, from its current base in Wigan Road, Euxton, which should allow more integration between the services, and be easier for most patients to access.

A spokesman for Chorley and South Ribble Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The urgent care service team will work closely with the existing 24/7 accident and emergency department (A&E), and also the local GP out-of-hours service, which will be moving to the hospital.

“It will focus on treating minor illness and injuries and be able to access essential diagnostic services at the hospital such as scans and laboratory tests. It will also be able to help patients to navigate a range of other services by helping to make sure they can be seen by the right clinical expert at the right time. This may include patients being referred to services based outside of the hospital, such as their normal GP or a local pharmacy.”