STRUCTURE: A group of doctors is set to launch a judicial review of the decision to remove emergency and high risk general surgery from Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.

It follows weeks of discussions to try and avert legal action, which have ultimately proved unsuccessful, HSJ understands.

The dispute has already delayed the implementation phase of Greater Manchester’s Healthier Together programme by several weeks.

Wythenshawe Hospital

Wythenshawe Hospital is not being ‘downgraded’

In July, it was confirmed there would be four “single services” for emergency care in Greater Manchester. The most contentious aspect was the decision not to name University Hospital of South Manchester Foundation Trust, which runs Wythenshawe Hospital, as one of the “specialist” sites.

While FT board members have accepted the decision, a group of doctors sent a “letter before action” to the Healthier Together team four weeks ago.

They have since formed a private company to pursue the action, called Keep Wythenshawe Special, in order to raise cash to fund the campaign.

The legal threat is likely to delay implementation of the single service between the FT and Central Manchester University Hospitals FT.

It remains unclear whether it could affect other parts of the programme, which are keen to progress the changes at pace.

In the north west area of the region, involving Salford Royal FT, Bolton FT and Wigan, Wrightington and Leigh FT, a programme director has already been appointed.

Nigel Guest, chief clinical officer of Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group, and a member of the Healthier Together Committee in Common, said: “We are extremely disappointed about this legal challenge which could cost the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds, as well as delay the urgently required changes needed to improve patient care.

“None of our hospitals in Greater Manchester currently meet all of the national quality and safety standards. Each day we delay implementation of these standards will result in poorer care for the people of Greater Manchester.”

He said Wythenshawe Hospital was not being “downgraded” and its other specialised services would be unaffected by the changes.

A spokeswoman for Keep Wythenshawe Special said: “Unless there is a significant shift in position to ensure Wythenshawe Hospital retains high risk emergency surgery, it will be seeking a judicial review of the Healthier Together decision.”

A South Manchester spokesman said: “We continue to support the aim of Healthier Together to make the improvements to healthcare that patients need and deserve, not just locally, but across Greater Manchester. We are working closely with our consultant colleagues and Healthier Together so that these concerns can be addressed soon and outside of a lengthy legal process.”