UNION chiefs have criticised proposals to create five super hospitals across Greater Manchester — labelling it a “downgrade” of the region’s health services.

Members of Unison’s Bolton branch say the Healthier Together review — due to go to consultation this summer — is driven by cuts rather than improving the quality of care.

But Healthier Together chiefs insist their shake-up will improve specialist care and local services.

Karen Reissman, Unison member and secretary of Bolton Save our Health Service campaign, said: “We think Healthier Together is about cuts rather than patient care.

“They are saying hospitals will upgraded if they become the so-called ‘super hospitals’ but they won’t.

“All hospitals like the Royal Bolton are already super-hospitals because they offer the full range of services. The hospitals that become “local” are effectively being downgraded and will lose services.

“We cannot be allowed to join one side in a fight to decide which of our hospitals is to downgrade. It’s like deciding which of our arms to have cut off.”

Healthier Together — who say the restructure could save up to 1,000 lives every five years — has already earmarked Salford, Oldham and Central Manchester as specialist centres.

The Royal Bolton has been shortlisted alongside Wigan, Stockport and Wythenshawe to become one of two other specialist hospitals in the region.

Bosses at the Royal Bolton are bidding to become a super-hospital and plan to invest in the accident and emergency department, as well as maternity, children and obstetrics.

North Manchester, Fairfield in Bury and Tameside could be classed as “local hospitals” under the proposals — a possibility for Bolton if it is not chosen as a specialist centre.

All hospitals across Greater Manchester will operate as part of a “single service” where two local hospitals will share services with a specialist hospital.

Healthier Together says the Royal Bolton’s A&E department and maternity services are not under threat

Patients will be able to give their view on the plans during a series of public events set to take place over the summer — if the consultation is approved by NHS England in July.