A health service shake-up could see Wigan patients forced to travel out of the borough for treatment to skin complaints.
NHS bosses are weighing up options to reform the area’s dermatology services as a nationwide lack of specialists has put pressure on the system.
Options are set to go out to public consultation before the end of the year with the potential for a reduction in sites across Wigan, Bolton and Salford.
Members of the council’s health scrutiny committee have now given an update on the plans and were informed a shortfall of consultants comes against a backdrop of increasing demand.
Julie Crossley, assistant director at Wigan’s clinical commissioning group (CCG), said local services are becoming increasingly reliant on costly locum doctors with recent retirements contributing to the problem.
It has meant a rise in waiting times across the three areas, although bosses are keen to “sustain services”, she added.
Ms Crossley said: “One of the issues that we’re facing in our partnership and in Greater Manchester – and it’s a national issue – is a shortage of dermatology consultants and it’s something we’ve been working with for a number of years.
“We’re now looking at how we can do different models of care that can bring in specialist nurses or GPs with special interest to help replace that workforce.”
Salford Royal is already the dermatology specialist hospital in Greater Manchester, with counterparts in Bolton and Wigan providing routine care.
The options under consideration by local health bosses include moving to a two-site model, a single site model or a “hub and spoke” model with a main centre and satellite clinics.
Remaining options are “decommission and recommission current services,” “roll-out a new workforce strategy” or “do nothing.”
Consultations are currently taking place with patients and clinicians to identify the most viable options before they are put to public consultation.
The Healthier Together reforms in 2015 saw Wigan, Salford and Bolton grouped together and operate as a “single service partnership”.
The committee heard the consultation, led by Salford CCG, was initially scheduled to start in August but is now likely to be launched in September with the development of a business case the next stage of the process.
Ms Crossley added that dermatology services cover skin diseases from cancer through to acne related conditions.
She added: “This is just part of a whole raft of partnership working.”