THE Leigh Reporter today launches a major campaign to save local hospital services after the borough’s health boss voiced fears of a damaging downgrade.
NHS Trust chief executive Andrew Foster has taken the unusual step of warning of “serious consequences” if Leigh and Wigan Infirmaries lose out in an overhaul of the hospital network.
His concerns come ahead of a public consultation over Healthier Together programme proposals.
They could see the borough overlooked in the bid to make Wigan Infirmary a “specialist hospital.”
Now health chiefs and clinicians at Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust want readers to back a crusade to secure specialist status for Wigan Infirmary and so retain borough services in Leigh.
The consultation starts on July 8 in which the views of Leigh residents will be sought to decide on the future of hospital care across Greater Manchester.
Before then there will be many claims and counter-claims. Over the coming weeks the Leigh Reporter will present the case for and against any changes and what they would mean to the borough and its residents.
Healthier Together (HT) was launched in 2012 aimed at improving health and social care across Greater Manchester.
The public will be asked to decide which hospitals they want to become specialist centres through the consultation process.
Healthier Together chiefs — who say the restructure could save up to 1,000 lives every five years — have already earmarked Salford, Oldham and Central Manchester as specialist centres.
Wigan Infirmary has been shortlisted alongside Bolton, Stockport and Wythenshawe to become one of two other specialist hospitals in the region.
North Manchester, Fairfield in Bury and Tameside could be classed as “local hospitals” under the proposals - a possibility for Wigan if it is not chosen as a specialist centre.
NHS England will have the final say.
Mr Foster now wants all Leigh residents to back a decision to make Wigan Infirmary a “specialist hospital.’”
He said: “There could be serious consequences to the future of services in Leigh if what I believe to be a downgrading of our hospital comes to pass.
“Whilst the first phase only relates to emergency surgery, which HT say accounts for around four per cent of our work, there is a real fear that we could lose further services in the future if put on that conveyor belt. If we are not selected as a “super hospital” I believe it could be detrimental to healthcare in the borough.
“We do not support what we expect to be the proposals regarding emergency surgery reconfiguration in this consultation.
“Whilst we acknowledge that there needs to be standardisation and improvements in clinical standards and outcomes, we believe that this is achievable through an alternative.”