THERE are no plans to close the Royal Bolton Hospital and any changes in the town will be done to improve care, the chairman of Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has said.

Dr Wirin Bhatiani’s comments came after unions urged NHS staff, patients and members of the public to join a campaign to save A&E units in Greater Manchester, including Bolton.

Officials from unions including Unite, Unison, the Royal College of Nursing and the Society of Radiographers, addressed hundreds of staff at 10 meetings where they told them a review of the NHS in Greater Manchester, called Healthier Together, could lead to the closure a number of A&E departments across the region.

But Dr Bhatiani, who has been involved in the Healthier Together discussions since they began about seven months ago, said: “The most important thing to remember with regards to the Healthier Together programme, is that plans are in the very early stages and there are currently no specific proposals to shut services at the Royal Bolton Hospital.”

Dr Bhatiani said the Healthier Together programme was in collaboration will all 12 CCGs in Greater Manchester.

He added it was necessary because the demands on the NHS were growing and to meet these while improving care for patients meant working in a “integrated way” with other hospitals, councils, GPs and community- based services.

Dr Bhatiani said consultations had shown people were willing to travel for specialist care.

“The focus is ensuring the best care is available for all our patients — in Bolton we continue to have this challenge of significant inequalities,” he said.

“We want to bring care into the community, nearer the patient and in the home of the patient. The concern people have about the local hospital is a little premature because at present we are in the consultation process.

“We do know the very specialist services cannot be provided at every hospital.

We know from our public consultation the public is willing to travel if that means they can have highly specialised care.”