THE move to make the Royal Bolton Hospital a super-centre for the treatment of babies and children has hit a setback.

After winning a battle to be named as one of this region's three centres of excellence for neonatal, baby and children's services, hospital bosses have been told the decision will be reviewed.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has referred the decision to name the Royal Bolton, St Mary's in Manchester and the Royal Oldham Hospital as Greater Manchester's three super-centres to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

It follows strong campaigning by MPs in Salford, Bury, Rochdale and Trafford where the maternity units are earmarked for closure.

Among the campaigners have been Hazel Blears, the MP for Salford and Labour Party chairman, and Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South and the health minister in charge of maternity services.

Salford Council's overview and scrutiny committee have asked for a judicial review, while Rochdale and Bury councils are expected to follow suit. This has prompted the review.

Now a panel, which will be made up of representatives of doctors, the public, hospital managers and maternity experts, will spend three months examining the plans and consulting local people further before making their recommendations to the Health Secretary.

Each of the experts will be from outside the North-west.

It is expected the team will be named next week.

Thousands of people supported The Bolton News' Back The Baby Unit campaign, calling for the Royal Bolton Hospital to be named as one of the centres of excellence.

If the decision to make it a super-centre is backed, an extra £10 million is set to be pumped into the hospital's yearly budget.

Dr Peter Powell, associate director for women's and children's services at the Royal Bolton, said: " I remain confident that the original decision will be upheld."

The review has been welcomed in Salford. David Dalton, chief executive of Hope Hospital in Salford, said: "We have always supported the principle of having fewer, larger maternity and children's units and developing three major neonatal intensive care units.

"But we believed that Greater Manchester would benefit more by retaining and developing services at Salford Royal Hospital Trust."

The Pennine Acute Trust, which runs Fairfield Hospital in Bury and Rochdale Infirmary, whose maternity units face closure, refused to comment because the matter was under judicial review.

John Williams, project director for NHS North-west, said: "This is not another consultation.

"It will, however, involve extensive dialogue which will involve local people, staff, clinicians and others and will examine in great detail the conduct of the consultation itself."

Experts have already predicted that the move for the super-centres would save the lives of around 20 babies each year in Greater Manchester as highly specialist care would be available in the three supercentres.