Primary care trust cluster NHS Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral has approved a controversial plan for the reconfiguration of vascular services across Cheshire and Merseyside.

The proposal - covered in detail in this week’s HSJ Local Briefing - is to relocate all arterial surgery, and some complex endovascular procedures, to two hospital sites. The Royal Liverpool University Hospital would be designated the “arterial centre” for the north of the health economy, and the Countess of Chester Hospital that for the south.

The plan will still need to go to the board of NHS Merseyside for approval next week (17 July). There also remains a risk that it could be referred to health secretary Andrew Lansley by one or more of the local authorities unhappy with the decision.

While the proposals for the north of the patch have met with relatively little controversy, those for the south have faced opposition from a mixture of local residents, councils, MPs and clinicians.

They would see complex vascular work currently provided at sites operated by Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust and Warrington and Halton Hospitals Foundation Trust transferred to Chester.

Tony Higgins, chairman of Warrington Council health overview and scrutiny committee, told HSJ the council “certainly would” refer the reconfiguration proposals to the health secretary if commissioners approved the Chester option. “We do not believe for one second that this has been an absolutely fair procedure,” he said. “They haven’t considered Warrington at all as a genuine option for one of the arterial centres.”

But NHS Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral chief executive Kathy Doran said: “When it comes to south Mersey, what we’ve got is three boroughs who are exceedingly proud of their good local hospitals, and they want to keep all services with their hospital. At the end of the day we have to make a decision, if we’re going to have one centre, as to where it will go. Wherever we choose the other two will be unhappy… That’s almost inevitable.”

Read HSJ’s full local briefing on the reconfiguration here.