David and Lisa-Louise Fitton's five-year-old son Dion died in October last year. He had a rare progressive developmental disease which required frequent emergency medical care. The Fittons' second son, Jordan, has the same condition, called global development delay, and also needs emergency care.
The proposals would see their local accident and emergency at Rochdale Hospital downgraded to a minor injuries unit. This would mean a 30-minute trip to the nearest A&E in Bury or Oldham, which the Fittons say would be life-threatening. They won legal aid to challenge the proposals last December.
The plans, labelled Healthy Futures, will reconfigure four hospitals across Greater Manchester. They have been put together by a consortium of five primary care trusts in the north east of Greater Manchester, and recommend reconfiguring emergency services as well as inpatient children's, maternity, and neonatal services, affecting 800,000 people.
The Fittons' lawyers argued that the NHS had failed to comply with its obligations to consult over the proposals and sought a judicial review in the High Court.
But last week, after looking at documentary evidence from both parties, Mr Justice Walker decided that there was no arguable basis for saying the NHS had failed to consult properly. He said the Healthy Futures consultation had been 'well within the bounds of reasonableness' in respect of medical, managerial and other financial matters.
The five PCTs: Bury; East Lancashire; Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale; Manchester; and Oldham launched the Healthy Futures initiative in summer 2004 and said it was consulted on with more than 500 clinicians as well as staff, patients and the public. The discussions resulted in three options which were opened up for public debate from January to May 2006, with the final recommendation being made in January this year.
Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale PCT chief executive and consultation lead Trevor Purt said: 'Naturally we welcome the judge's ruling.
'This is a clear vindication of everything we have done and is a major step forward in our attempts to improve health services for all the people in the north east of Greater Manchester.'
However Richard Scorer, a partner at law firm Pannone, which represents the family, said they would be seeking a full hearing to continue their case.