Experts go head to head on NHS plans

The Wigan Observer public debate at Wigan Town Hall over the Healthier Together NHS consultation - Sir Ian McCartney
The Wigan Observer public debate at Wigan Town Hall over the Healthier Together NHS consultation - Sir Ian McCartney

CONCERNS for the future of Wigan’s hospitals if they are not given “specialist” status as part of an NHS shake up were discussed at a town hall debate.

Health experts involved in the Healthier Together (HT) proposals fielded questions from the public alongside politicians and borough healthcare representatives.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy criticised that decisions were being made by a body of health officials with no democratic mandate and the HT public consultations had been poorly managed.

She said: “As a democratically elected representative, I have found it impossible to get information out of Healthier Together. We have had to resort to asking questions in Parliament and Freedom of Information requests.

“This consultation was run over the summer when most people were on holiday and it’s full of jargon. Everyone needs to go away and really scrutinise this.

“How much money went into this consultation which could have gone into our health services?”

Residents voiced concerns over whether their safety would be put at risk by having to travel to different hospitals in the region to receive aspects of care.

Dr Chris Brookes, who represented the HT team, told the forum that the changes were not just a response to cuts to healthcare budgets but are a chance to improve widespread standards of care.

He said: “HT is making the case for change. Hospital care is not the same across Greater Manchester, I care passionately that all of us deserve high quality care and not to worry about where we fall ill.

“The whole point of the consultation is to be a catalyst for debate. The views of people will be taken into consideration.”

Senior staff at Wigan’s hospitals had previously said there could be a real risk to services if they receive general hospital status.

Andrew Foster, chief executive of the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, said: “You are being asked to choose between Wigan, Bolton, Stockport and Wythenshawe.

“I would prefer to be collaborating with our colleagues rather than competing with our neighbour hospitals.”

“We’ve got one of the best A and E departments in the area and that’s one of the things I want to protect.”