STRUCTURE: Implementation work to create four ‘specialist’ sites for emergency surgery in Greater Manchester will begin before improvements to primary care are fully in place.

  • Implementation of hospital changes to start before primary care extension fully in place
  • CCGs “satisfied” this meets conditions for project
  • Leaders do not expect legal challenge to decision despite MPs’ concerns

Leaders of the Healthier Together programme hope to start preparing the first “specialist” and “local” groupings in three months, with the new set up planned to go live early next year. The groupings were confirmed on Wednesday, after a consultation.

The programme also covers primary care services, and work continues to roll out seven day access to GPs across the region by the end of this year.

Manchester skyline

The new set up for Manchester is planned to go live early next year

In consultation documents for Healthier Together, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities said: “We are clear that this improvement in integration and in GP services needs to be up and running before the changes to the hospital services are introduced.”

When asked about this aspect of the plans, Ian Williamson, the senior officer for the project, told HSJ the 12 clinical commissioning groups are “satisfied that the work done and the plans in place meet the conditions”.

He added: “We are not perfect, yet in primary care we’ve got about 40 per cent covered with seven day services and that’s increasing.”

The whole region will be covered by the end of the year, before the first single service is operating, he said.

Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Salford Royal Hospital and Royal Oldham Hospital will be the “specialists” under the new arrangements, and the only sites to perform emergency and high risk general surgery.

Six other sites are “general local hospitals”, although Wythenshawe Hospital in south Manchester, Royal Bolton Hospital and Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan have all stressed they will maintain their other specialised services.

Meanwhile, two MPs whose constituencies lie in the south of the conurbation raised concerns about the decision and consultation process in Parliament on Wednesday. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed to meet with them and discuss the concerns.

A group of 100 consultants at University Hospitals of South Manchester Foundation Trust had previously voiced their opposition, but the executive teams at all the providers accepted the decision, as well as a joint body representing each council’s overview and scrutiny committee.

When asked about the possibility of legal challenge, Mr Williamson told HSJ: “I genuinely hope there’s not a challenge.

“The best way of saving 300 lives a year is getting on and implementing as quickly as possible and anything like that could slow us down.

“We’re confident we’ve gone through a robust process and we’re not getting any indications that it’ll be challenged.”

Manchester shake-up planning to start before seven day GPs in place