PATIENTS could have less miles to travel for healthcare amid plans to use Leek's community hospital for more services – including it having an outpatients department.
At a special meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council's health and community overview panel, chief executive of the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UNNS), Mark Hackett, outlined the hospital's vision for the future, which will include it running Stafford's hospital.
This could include offering expanded services at Leek Moorlands Hospital, in Ashbourne Road, as well as Cheadle's community hospital.
Outpatient care would be delivered by UNHS staff.
Mr Hackett said: "We are currently treating 800,000 patients a year. This will increase to more than one million when we take over Stafford.
"The university hospital was £41 million in the red but this has now been reduced to £19 million. Our annual budget is £620 million.
"We are a very modern hospital, but it is costing us between £130 and £140 million to treat Staffordshire patients in the Black Country. We want to move this back into the county.
"With technology we can have local services which would save travelling time to Stoke for people.
"Leek and Cheadle hospitals, along with Biddulph clinic, can be used more effectively instead of people going to the central outpatients in Stoke.
"This would mean hundreds of people going to local community outpatients departments, which would still be delivered by our staff." Councillor Linda Malyon said: "This has been talked about for a few years. It there a timescale for this?"
Mr Hackett replied: "In an effort to bring more services locally we want to talk to the population of Leek and Cheadle in the late summer to see what can be achieved.
"We would ideally like to start the idea later this year or early next year."
Councillor Pam Wood, who is a former nurse, said she was glad to see that increased facilities were being looked into at Leek's hospital.
She said: "Leek and Moorlands Hospital is expert at rehabilitation.
"This should be increased and there should be no decrease in beds."
Councillor John Fisher said: "The expansion of services in Leek and Cheadle does make sense."
Leek and Cheadle hospitals are two out of five such community facilities in North Staffordshire.