Major changes to Greater Manchester's health services are to be examined by the independent reconfiguration panel - after the Labour Party chair joined a demonstration against the plans.

Salford MP and Cabinet Office minister Hazel Blears has been accused of hypocrisy for opposing loss of services at Hope Hospital in her constituency while supporting the general thrust of the government's health policies.

Ms Blears told a protest before Christmas that she had raised Hope Hospital with the health secretary several times.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has now referred proposals to change maternity and children's services across Greater Manchester, and changes to acute services in the north east of area, to the panel.

The move comes after more than 300,000 people gave their views in what is thought to be the NHS's biggest ever consultation.

A joint committee of primary care trusts supported plans to centralise inpatient children's and maternity services on fewer sites, and to remove full accident and emergency services from Rochdale Infirmary and emergency surgery from Fairfield Hospital in Bury..

But the plans will now be re-examined by the independent review panel. A spokesman said it would look at whether the proposals provided a safe, accessible and sustainable quality of service for the future.

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen said: 'I do feel especially confident now that our voice is being heard. Campaigners have never given up and I hope that this review will show these measures for what they are - a wholesale cost-cutting exercise.'

Both the children's and maternity services review, Making it Better, and the acute hospital review for the north east of the area, Healthy Futures, were facing potential judicial reviews.

Salford city council's overview and scrutiny committee had asked for the Making it Better decision, which took some services away from Hope Hospital, to be reviewed and Bury OSC had also asked the health secretary to step in.

John Williams, project director for consultations for North West strategic health authority, said terms of reference for the independent review panel would now be agreed.