HEALTH chiefs, councillors, union representatives and members of the public came together to discuss plans for a redesign of healthcare in Bolton.

The Healthier Together review, which has caused controversy in Bolton and led to concerns about current services being downgraded, is an ongoing plan that will affect healthcare across Greater Manchester.

The organisation has said the current district general hospitals system is outdated and bosses are working with the region’s 12 Clinical Commissioning Groups to create a new model.

They want a system that focuses on specialist units and has a greater emphasis on community care.

A public consultation has now been launched.

Last night’s packed meeting, in the Bolton Albert Halls, was an opportunity for the Healthier Together team to explain the reasons behind the proposals and answer any concerns.

But despite presentations from those behind Healthier Together, including Dr Wirin Bhatiani, chairman of Bolton’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and Dr Anne Talbot, a Bolton GP and associate medical director for NHS Greater Manchester which is leading the review, there were calls for a second follow-up meeting. Dr Bhatiani said Healthier Together aimed to have a clinically-led redesign that would lead to better prevention, earlier GP intervention, and better support in the community.

Harry Hanley, secretary of Staff Side, which represents employees at the Royal Bolton Hospital, raised concerns about community care, and Dr Bhatiani said the review would mean more money spent in the community.

Dr Bhatiani added: “Healthier Together and local issues are not linked. Even if Royal Bolton Hospital was fine, we would still need to have this discussion about Healthier Together. The change is for the better and the fact that doctors are involved is critical.”

But concerns were raised about Greater Manchester’s transport system with one member of the public asking if Bolton could have a helicopter system to transport the sick to specialist centres. Dr Talbot said ambulances are “like mini-hospitals” adding that a person’s chance of survival is better if they travel to a specialist centre, even if it means passing other hospitals on the way.

She added: “Fabrice Muamba went past four London hospitals to get to the hospital that was going to treat him and that is why he is here today.”

l A consultation on the Healthier Together plans is due to start in spring. Organisers are hoping to hold a second meeting in Bolton in late March.