HEALTH chiefs faced a heated debate on the impact of controversial proposals to transform hospital services in Bolton and Greater Manchester.
A panel of experts fielded questions from more than 50 people at Bolton University tonight as part of the public consultation on the Healthier Together reforms — which could see the Royal Bolton become one five “super” hospitals in Greater Manchester.
The panel came under fire for the use of “flowery” and “airy fairy” language in the consultation documents.
Questions on hospital bed closures, transport links and the impact on GP services were also raised by concerned tax-payers at tonight’s meeting.
One resident, who only gave his name as Mr Richardson, said: “You ask a lot of questions in this document using very flowery, airy-fairy language with no substance to them.
“It’s information about nothing.”
In response, Su Long, chief officer at Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "This is about improving the quality of care and reducing the variation across hospitals in Greater Manchester.
“There are different depths of documents available and we have tried to recognise that some people do not want to read lengthy documents.”
Audience member Martin Gallagher added: “We were told that four wards at the Royal Bolton Hospital will close. That’s about 120 beds. Is this true?”
Jackie Bene, chief executive of the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said there were plans to reduce the number of hospital beds as part of the trust’s five year efficiency plan — but stressed bed closures were separate from Healthier Together.
Panel members went on to reassure the audience that no A&E departments or hospitals would close as part of the proposals.
They said the chief aim is to improve the outcomes of high risk general surgery.
Currently people are more likely to die in the evenings and at weekends because hospitals do not have enough staff.
Dr Wirin Bhatiani, chair of Bolton CCG, told the audience he was “not happy” with the standards of health care being offered to patients at present.
He added: “We cannot afford not to do this. We are now seeing a different type of patient compared to 15 years ago.
“I now see people who are living longer with multiple conditions. The whole population has changed. If we continue to treat people in the same way we did 15 years ago, the whole system would collapse.”
Oldham, Salford or Manchester Royal Infirmary have already been earmarked as specialist centres.
The Royal Bolton is vying with Wigan for specialist status.
Dr Bene said: “I believe in the principles of Healthier Together and would like to see Bolton carry out these specialist services.
“We have a very busy A&E and our women and children’s department is extremely busy too.”
The consultation ends on September 30.
To complete a questionnaire, go to healthiertogethergm.nhs.uk.