Health chiefs say a new audiology clinic opening at Lydney Hospital proves they are listening to patients.

Days after a public meeting called to discuss the future of Lydney Hospital, NHS chiefs opened the new unit.

Up to 100 people packed into the Naas Lane Community Centre on Friday night to hear concerns about medical cover at the hospital.

Town councillor Bill Osborne called the fact-finding meeting after learning Lydney GPs had been issued with redundancy notices and would no longer be staffing the hospital from March next year,

Chief executive designate Penny Harris of Gloucestershire Care Services dismissed rumours the new arrangement could lead to closure and said nothing could be further than the truth.

She said the NHS and the Friends wanted to improve services by investing in audiology, minor surgery, outpatients, an endoscopy clinic and ensuring more beds were free for elderly people from the Forest.

But she says that means ensuring a there is a resident doctor at the hospital at least five hours a day during the week and two hours on weekends and Bank Holidays.

Lydney GPs, who cover at the moment, have not tendered for the new two-year contract because they would need to employ another fully qualified doctor to make sure their patients did not suffer.

But Dr Roy Sharma echoed some patients' fears when he said: "It is the sad end of an era.

"Certainly the beauty of a community hospital where you can be looked after by staff and doctors who know you will, for ever, be gone."

John Thurston said the Friends of Lydney Hospital are confident other Forest doctors will win the contract because it requires them to be able to attend at 30 minutes' notice.

Lydney GPs would still be allowed access to their own patients.

"There was a very lively discussion and we learned of plans to improve the number and quality of services at Lydney," said Mr Thurston.

Tony Midgley, chairman of the Friends, said: "The clear statement by Penny Harris that there is no threat to Lydney Hospital was most reassuring."

But Coun Bill Osborne said: "I am reassured that the future of the hospital is secure for the foreseeable future, but I am not reassured about the GP side of things.

"I don't think members of the public were reassured about the new arrangement either and a staff nurse at the meeting said it was the first time she had heard anything about it."

He is planning another meeting in the New Year.