NHS England has given the green light for public consultation on a major reconfiguration of general surgery and emergency care across eight acute trusts in Greater Manchester.
Proposals set out in the Healthier Together consultation, which launched this morning, would see a centralisation of the emergency and high risk surgery currently performed across ten hospitals onto four or five sites.
The consultation is expected to generate intense political heat, coming less than a year before the 2015 general election. Some Greater Manchester MPs have already begun campaigning for their local hospitals to be designated as “specialist centres”.
Under Healthier Together, all hospitals covered by the reconfiguration would be designated “specialist hospitals” or “local general hospitals”.
Specialist hospitals would be the only sites to undertake emergency and high risk general surgery. They would also have a consultant presence in accident and emergency for at least 16 hours a day.
Local general hospitals would retain their A&Es but would only have a consultant presence in A&E for 12 hours a day. Any patients requiring emergency or high risk surgery would be transferred to a specialist centre.
The consultation sets out eight options for the reconfiguration. There are two sites – North Manchester General Hospital and Tameside General Hospital – that would cease to provide emergency surgery under any of those options.
There are also three hospitals that would be designated specialist centres under any of the options: Manchester Royal Infirmary, Salford Royal Hospital, and Royal Oldham Hospital.
In four of the options, there would be only one more site designated as a specialist: either Wythenshawe Hospital in south Manchester, Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan or Royal Bolton Hospital in Bolton.
The remaining four options would see two specialist sites, in various combinations of south Manchester, Stockport and Wigan or Bolton.
Under Healthier Together’s proposed model, two or three hospitals in each sector of Greater Manchester would pool their general surgery workforce to create a single service provided across all sites.
The team would be rotated across all hospitals in the network, but all emergency and high risk work would be performed at the specialist centre.
The other sites in the network - termed “general hospitals” in Healthier Together - would continue to perform day case and planned work.