HEALTH bosses have sought to reassure Bury residents about the future of Fairfield Hospital — as part a public consultation into the biggest shake up of the NHS in more than 60 years.
A panel of experts told about 60 residents at a public the meeting in The Met last Thursday that there are no plans to close the hospital's accident and emergency (A&E) department.
The meeting was part of the public consultation being held across Greater Manchester regarding the Healthier Together reforms, which could set up five super hospitals across the region.
Fairfield Hospital is set to be classified as a "local hospital", which will continue to deliver most services, but will see people in "life threatening situations" transferred to specialist hospitals, which could include Salford Royal, Royal Oldham and Royal Bolton hospitals.
Dr Anton Sinniah, deputy medical director at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Fairfield Hospital, responded to a question given by a member of the audience, who raised concerns about the long-term future of the hospital.
He said: "There are no plans to shut Fairfield. There are no plans to shut the A&E at Fairfield. It would be absolutely the wrong thing.
“It has such good outcomes and teamwork and that's not the way the NHS should go."
Dr Sinniah explained that Bury patients would not experience much of a change, but said those travelling to visit loved ones or attend appointments at "super hospitals" would have to travel further to access specialist services.
He added: "95 per cent of medical conditions will still be managed locally, but for those top end conditions, which really do need a bit more than is given in local hospitals, people will need to travel further, as they are already doing."
Health bosses say it is hoped that the reforms will save 1,500 lives over five years.
The meeting also heard from one resident who asked whether sending patients to specialist hospitals, further away from their local hospital, could harm their chances of survival.
However, Martin Smith, clinical director of emergency medicine at Salford Royal, said it was more important that people receive "definitive care", at a specialised centre best suited to their needs.
He said: "The time to definitive care is the key, not the first point of care.
"The ambulance service is not just a conveyance vehicle, it has experienced paramedics with skills that were not there 10 years ago."
Cllr Rishi Shori, deputy leader of Bury Council and chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said that because society is changing and the ageing population, health bosses “would not be doing their duty” if changes were not made.
The meeting was chaired by Lynn Ashwell, deputy editor of The Bolton News, and the panel was completed by Dr Kiran Patel, chairman of NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Stuart North, NHS Bury CCG chief officer, and Lorraine Ganley, senior manager of acute episodes at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.