Regional NHS leaders have given assurances that Macclesfield General Hospital will retain its accident and emergency department – a fortnight after saying it could be downgraded.

The sustainability and transformation plan for Cheshire and Mersey, published in mid November, had said various options were being considered, including to retain the unit or provide an urgent care centre in its place.

There have long been concerns over the sustainability of services at East Cheshire Trust, but the STP proposals were met with strong local opposition.

Now the Eastern Cheshire Caring Together programme, a pre-existing partnership of local organisations, has issued a statement saying: “The clear view is that the best model of care will include an A&E department at Macclesfield staffed by hospital doctors and clinicians.”

Dr Paul Bowen, clinical chair of Eastern Cheshire CCG, said: “All partners have confirmed their commitment to this model. This allows us to focus on further transforming and integrating health and care services. I hope this provides assurance for both patients and staff.”

A draft of the STP, which was leaked to several media organisations including HSJ, suggested the department would be downgraded to a minor injuries and illnesses unit led by GPs.

Both the leaked and published documents put forward various options for A&E downgrades across Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust, St Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospitals Trust, and Warrington and Halton Hospitals Foundation Trust.

A spokeswoman for STP, which is led by Louise Shepherd, chief executive of Alder Hey Children’s FT, said: “In relation to local issues, it is for the Caring Together partners to ensure Macclesfield’s A&E department, provides effective and efficient services that are sustainable and improve standards of care. The STP has been kept informed of these local discussions.

“The STP framework is an iterative process and will continue to evolve over the coming months following engagement with local partners, clinicians and patients.”