A controversial reconfiguration criticised by Andrew Lansley before he became health secretary has finally been given the go ahead.
NHS North West approved the final stages of the Making It Better programme for children’s and maternity services. The move will end consultant led births in Bury, Rochdale and Salford.
The plans were originally agreed in 2007 but reviewed after Mr Lansley announced a moratorium on accident and emergency and maternity closures last summer.
But the plan to concentrate consultant led maternity services on eight sites rather than 12 across Greater Manchester won the support of the National Clinical Advisory Team and GPs.
Hospital births will end at Rochdale this summer, followed by Salford in November and Bury in spring 2012. Births have already stopped at Trafford General Hospital.
The loss of services at Fairfield Hospital in Bury became a key election issue in the area, with successful Conservative candidate David Nuttall claiming Mr Lansley had said he would ensure maternity and children’s services remained.
In prime minister’s questions in the Commons last week, Mr Nuttall appealed to David Cameron to intervene in the decision, saying: “Despite our pledge to keep it open and despite the very useful new criteria issued by the Department of Health, the NHS in the North West decided to continue with the closure decision that was taken by Labour.”
Mr Cameron said he would “discuss that issue” with Mr Lansley, but added: “We have introduced far tougher steps before these decisions can be taken, to ensure that local needs, and the views of patients and local GPs, are respected.
“The whole point about the new system, which is GP led, is that hospitals will thrive when local people use and value them.”
NHS Salford has decided to set up a standalone midwifery led birth centre at the Salford Royal Hospital. It will open in November and will be reviewed after two years.
NHS Bury and NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale will make a decision this summer on whether to develop business cases for similar units. NHS Trafford has ruled out a unit.