HEALTH chiefs in Bury have been given a six-figure cash boost for the fight against winter bugs.

NHS England has handed an extra £1.1 million to NHS Bury’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to spend on measures helping local health services cope in the coldest months.

Such funding has been much lower previously or it had been sanctioned only once problems have developed.

Service bosses said they are confident that the money now will help them prepare for the worst. The main problem last winter was people going to hospital A&E departments with conditions that could be dealt with elsewhere.

They extended opening hours and brought in extra staff at walk-in centres to ease the problem.

Bury CCG’s chief officer Stuart North said: “Receiving the allocation early in the year is good news as this allows us to put plans in place well in advance.

“This ensures services are able to jointly plan ahead and put in place measures to cope with the challenges that the winter months pose.

“We will be working with GPs and colleagues working in local hospitals, community and social services, to plan how this money can be best spent to bolster local services.”

Carol Twist, chairman of the Independent watchdog Healthwatch Bury, also welcomed the extra cash. She said: “We will need to ensure that this funding is allocated equally to the health and social care services across the borough based on previous evidence where the challenges are likely to be in the coming winter months.

“In order to ensure that it is targeted proportionately, we would like to be assured that Bury CCG will also engage with the consumers and carers of service users to identify where resources are required.”

Bury Council’s health representative, Cllr Andrea Simpson, of Labour, gave a cautious welcome.

She said: “This does not detract from the £20 million shortfall in funding which Bury CCG currently has, and which has implications in future funding of health initiatives for the population of Bury.”