FAIRFIELD Hospital could be classed as a "local hospital" under plans to alter health care services across Greater Manchester.

Fairfield would share services with a specialist hospital, but would retain its accident and emergency (A&E) department and carry out planned procedures and general surgery for the majority of patients.

Most patients will be treated at local hospitals, with a higher standard of care, but would be sent to specialist hospitals if they have major health problems, say health bosses.

As part of the Healthier Together plans — which it is claimed could save 1,000 lives every five years — five specialist hospitals will be created.

Three centres have been earmarked in Salford, Oldham and central Manchester, with hospitals in Bolton, Wigan, Stockport and Wythenshawe comp-eting for the last two spots.

North Manchester and Tameside hospitals would also be local hospitals.

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

Changes are already in place, after Fairfield’s maternity and special care baby unit closed in February last year.

Services were diverted to the Royal Bolton Hospital and North Manchester General, but a number of routine outpatient care and scans are still available at Fairfield.

A spokesman for Healthier Together said: “Following public consultation, under the proposals, the services currently at Fairfield General, including the A&E department, will continue.

“As with the other local general hospitals, services will be improved at Fairfield to meet the agreed clinical standards. Fairfield General will also continue to work together with other nearby hospitals, with combined clinical teams delivering specialist care at neighbouring specialist hospital sites.”

Health bosses voted unanimously for the proposals, which will be reviewed by NHS England next month and go to public consultation later.

Cllr Rishi Shori, chairman of the Bury Health and Wellbeing Board, said he agreed with the principle of more community-based healthcare, but said he would reserve judgement until he knew the details.

He said: “It is about having more community based services, and to deter people from going to hospital, which is very costly and often does not cater for people’s needs.

"I think everyone agrees it is a better way of working, but we are not aware of what that means to local hospitals.

"I don’t think it is going to change much in Bury, but what changes there are, we will ensure that they will fit in with our health priorities.”

The changes come as a new £2.25 million A&E department at Fairfield is set to be completed next month.