One of the first reconfigurations to be approved under health secretary Andrew Lansley’s criteria is to go ahead earlier than expected because of safety concerns.
The accident and emergency, inpatient maternity and children’s services, and other acute services at Rochdale Infirmary could now close as early as April.
“Blue light” A&E services have been closed for 14 hours a day since August because of problems staffing the unit.
The changes to acute services were approved after a major consultation exercise in 2007. However, because they had not been implemented, they were re-examined as part of the moratorium on closures announced by the coalition government in May.
However, Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust announced on Thursday it wanted to accelerate the closure with April as the new target date.
Trust chief executive John Saxby said: “The timescale for implementing the agreed changes at Rochdale Infirmary has always depended on the ability to maintain safe services and capital building solutions.
“The difficulties we face in sustaining safe clinical services have recently become more evident. We have had to divert 999 ambulances from Rochdale Infirmary overnight because of medical staff recruitment difficulties in A&E.”
Mr Saxby added: “We face similar and worsening staffing difficulties in anaesthetics, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, medicine and surgery.”
A decision will be made in December on maternity and children’s services across Greater Manchester, including Rochdale.
The National Clinical Advisory Team report into the changes suggested they might need to go further in the long term, with a possible “super A&E” centre at one of the trust’s four hospitals and other hospitals losing services.
The speed with which the Rochdale changes are being implemented highlights the pressure some trusts are facing with long-delayed reconfigurations.
South London Healthcare Trust is closing A&E services at Queen Mary’s, Sidcup, later this month and inpatient maternity the month after, citing staffing issues.
North Tees and Hartlepool Trust wanted to downgrade Hartlepool A&E this month but has been forced to rethink after councillors objected. The government recently refused funding for a new hospital outside Hartlepool.