HEALTH bosses have sought to reassure Bury residents about the future of Fairfield Hospital — as part of a public consultation into the biggest shake-up of the NHS in more than 60 years.

A panel of experts told an audience of about 60 people at a 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 over the Healthier Together reforms, to set up five super hospitals.

Fairfield General Hospital will be classified as a “local hospital”, which will continue to deliver most services, but will see patients in “life-threatening situations” transferred to other specialist hospitals, Salford Royal, Royal Oldham and Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Dr Anton Sinniah, deputy medical director at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Fairfield, responded to a question from an audience member, 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 visiting family members of friends, or attending appointments at “super hospitals”, would have to travel further to access specialist services.

He added: “Ninety-five 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.”

It is hoped that the reforms will save 1,500 lives over five years.

One resident asked whether sending patients further away to specialist hospitals 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 of 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 with its ageing population health bosses “would not be doing their duty” if alterations 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.