URGENT care services across Greater Manchester have been pulled up over poor A&E performance are in effect in “special measures” said the chairman of the hospital board.

David Wakefield told his Royal Bolton Hospital colleges: “Sadly, the urgent care system has been placed in special measures across GM.”

Representatives of the partnership which oversees health in Greater Manchester said this was not the case but that national NHS bodies were intervening.

Mr Wakefield was pleased with Bolton’s progress against A&E targets compared to other hospitals.

Speaking on Thursday at the board meeting he said: “Our A&E is still seeing an enormous number of people.

“Yesterday, I heard the temperature was something like just short of 30 degrees warmer than this time last year but the numbers are higher.

“It’s happening nationally.

“We’re holding up, doing very well but still not making 95 per cent.

“I don’t know the implications for Greater Manchester going into special measures but it doesn’t seem good. We await further news.”

At the end of January the Greater Manchester Health and Care Board met to discuss winter pressures. The report of the meeting notes the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) is working with NHS Improvement and NHS England and the senior leadership across Greater Manchester to “better understand the root causes for reduced performance”.

Hospital A&Es are tasked by the NHS with seeing 95 per cent of their patients within four hours of them arriving ­— whether that is treating them in that time or referring them to a more appropriate service.

Almost all hospitals across the country struggle with this and the national average for December was 86.4 per cent seen. In Greater Manchester it was 83.52 per cent. In Bolton it was 81.2 per cent, picking up to 82.4 per cent in January.

The report calls December “a very challenging month”.

The GMHSCP has responsibility for a £6 billion budget following devolution and hoped to use this to help boost health care in all forms across the region.

Since 2015 though, A&E performance in Greater Manchester has been below the national average.

The report notes that Tameside and Glossop are the only locality that have achieved 90 per cent or more against the target.

A meeting was set up between NHS England, NHS Improvement Greater Manchester urgent and emergency care delivery board members and hospital chief executive officers in February.

A GMHSCP spokesman said: 

“Greater Manchester is not in ‘special measures’. Like many other parts of the country, Greater Manchester has faced a challenging winter in terms of four hour performance.  Greater Manchester, under devolution, collectively agreed an Accountability Agreement with NHS England around NHS constitutional standards, including A&E, which sets out that A&E performance below 95% but above 85% is dealt with locally. Greater Manchester, as a whole this winter, has slipped below this threshold, due in part to high numbers of people attending A&E with complex medical and social issues to resolve, impacting on bed numbers and the four hour wait targets.

“Although we’ve fallen below this threshold, it is only one measure of performance across the system. Under the terms of the agreement, unique to Greater Manchester, some but not all areas have now been asked to produce recovery plans to improve their four hour wait performance. Bolton has performed relatively well and is not one of these areas.

“The plans include further work in hospitals to assess vulnerable people early and ensure they do not suddenly deteriorate; work taking place to avoid hospital admissions such as supporting nursing homes improve access to general practice; working with the ambulance service to provide care away from hospitals where the need is less urgent and using national winter monies on a range of schemes to help people get home from hospital.

“We continue to work on improving our performance, while learning from areas such as Tameside who have performed at a higher level. Beyond the A&E doors, some parts of Greater Manchester are already succeeding at bringing down the demand for emergency admissions e.g. Salford.

“NHS and social care staff deserve great thanks for their continued hard work in all areas. Preventing people from going into hospital in the first place, supporting people to stay independent and healthy for longer is key to our success.”