PROTESTERS have called on authorities to bring key diabetic health services back in house.

Campaigners battled the elements on a wet windy day in Victoria Square on Saturday as they protested against controversial changes to diabetic screening.

Representatives from Bolton Save Our NHS Service and Keep Our NHS Public are concerned that the decision to award a recent contract to a private provider has split up key parts of the service.

Until April this year, diabetic patients in Bolton would attend Royal Bolton Hospital and have their feet and eyes checked at the same time ­— with specialists under one roof.

Now under the changes, patients will have to make two separate appointments leading to worries people may slip through the net by not attending the essential checks.

Protesters are calling it a “poke in the eye” of patients.

Speaking at Saturday’s rally, campaigner Christine Howarth, said she was concerned about a drop in the quality of the service and about a lack of doctors and nurses at bedsides during scans.

She said: “You used to have the people doing the scanning and the doctors and nurses backing them up. Now they just have the scanners with a computer programme,” she said.

“We’re also concerned that the hospitals are so staved of money that they’re at a disadvantage in bidding against private companies.”

Sarah Price, at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We are legally required to tender for services and following a fair and transparent process the service was awarded to Health Intelligence – who are specialists in the field and have significant experience in providing diabetic eye screening across the country.

“In Bolton the diabetic population are able to access the service by attending the three existing community sites. Health Intelligence are also planning to extend the service by offering additional optometrists venues.”