CONSULTATION has begun over plans to transfer hospital services in Bury to one super-site at Fairfield General Hospital.

Leaflets, documents and summaries are now being sent to organisations throughout the borough to gauge public opinion on the move.

To get the ball rolling, three public meetings have been organised by the Bury and Rochdale Health Authority and the Bury Health Care NHS Trust.

They will be at the Elizabethan Suite in Bury on March 16; Ramsbottom Civic Hall on March 25; and Radcliffe Civic Hall on April 12, all starting at 7pm.

Exhibition stands detailing the proposals will be displayed at the meetings and in public places around the borough. Information will also be sent to GPs, dentists, pharmacists, clinicians, hospital staff, local authorities, MPs, voluntary groups, neighbouring health authorities and the Community Health Council (CHC).

Members of the public are encouraged to fill in response forms to register their views.

Mr Evan Boucher, director of strategic planning and commissioning at the Health Authority said: "By transferring services currently at Bury General to an enlarged Fairfield hospital, essential services will be together on one site. These measures are important if the town's hospital services are to be maintained in the face of increasing quality standards.

"We want to know what people think."

Bury's health watchdogs, the CHC, have organised their own public meetings to be held next month. They will at Ramsbottom Civic Hall on April 20; Whitefield Community Centre on April 23; Radcliffe Civic Hall on April 23; St Anne's Church Hall, Tottington on April 28; and Derby Hall, Bury on April 30.

Proposals to close 92-year-old Bury General Hospital and transfer all services to Fairfield follow a review of services by the Health Authority.

If the plans are given the final go ahead, improvements on the Fairfield site off Rochdale Old Road will start in April 1999, continuing into 2002. Services would be relocated gradually over that period.

Some medical services would be shared between Bury and Rochdale Health Care NHS Trusts. Main sites at Fairfield Hospital in Bury and Rochdale Infirmary would each provide 'core' services including accident and emergency, intensive care, general medicine, general surgery, care of the elderly, maternity and paediatrics.

Health bosses say the changes would improve patient care, reduce the duplication of services, and cut down on patients, staff and ambulances travelling between the two sites.

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