THE tradition of having a Christmas tree in the grounds of the Royal Bolton Hospital has been saved thanks to the generosity of a local businessman.

Doug Mercer, managing director of Westhougton-based Toughsheet Recycling, has stumped up the cash for the tree on the main driveway in to the hospital, opposite the accident and emergency unit.

Hospital bosses had said that there would not be a tree this this year in the wake of budget cuts.

But on Friday, a 30ft Norway Spruce was erected on site to maintain the Christmas spirit.

Mr Mercer said: “I thought it was so sad that there would not be a Christmas tree in the grounds of the hospital.

“It has been a tough year for the staff at the hospital who are unbelievable.

“My parents have been treated at the hospital for cancer, and I could not fault the staff at all.”

He added: “This was about doing something for the patients and the staff.

“A Christmas tree brings a smile to people’s faces and if it brings a smile to one child’s face then that is more than enough for me.”

The tree was sold to Mr Mercer at cost price by Beech Hall Farm Garden Centre in Westhoughton.

Paul Gaskell, managing director, said: “I thought it was a very generous idea by Doug and I supported the idea because the hospital is going though a difficult time.

“This is about giving the doctors and nurses, who always give 101 per cent, a boost.”

It would have cost the hospital more than £1,000 to assemble and then dispose of a Christmas tree at a time when it was being forced to save £38 million over the next two years.

Staff were told that there would not be the traditional main Christmas tree this year in an effort to save money.

Stephen Tyldesley, associate director of estates and facilities, said: “We’re very grateful to Mr Mercer for his generosity.

Having a tree in the driveway will be much appreciated by patients, visitors and staff. It is a lovely thing to have done.”

The hospital has placed two smaller real trees at the entrances to outpatients and maternity, and there are several artificial trees in wards and departments, as well as a large artificial tree in the main reception area.