Responding to the outcome of the Healthier Together process, and the announcement that there are to be four specialist hospitals conducting high-risk emergency surgery at Central Manchester, Salford, Oldham and Stockport, UNISON North West Head of Health Amy Barringer said:
“We welcome advances in healthcare for the people of Greater Manchester but we do have some concerns with this.
“The decision has been made after a consideration of only a very small part of the workforce. Consultants in A&E and general surgery play a crucial role, but so to do theatre staff, nurses and support staff. It is only now, after the decision has already been taken, that any consideration will be given to the wider staffing implications. We think this should have been a consideration from the outset.
“We believe that it would have been better to have five specialist sites rather than just four. The public consultation showed that 75% of respondents wanted five specialist sites, and this would have given a better geographical spread. The four site plan means there is no specialist hospital in the North West of Greater Manchester, which raises concerns about travel times from Wigan and Bolton.
“It has always been a concern that conducting a major reorganisation of health provision at a time of austerity and funding pressures would lead to decisions being taken on the basis of cost rather than service improvement. Having four sites is predicted to save £121m over 20 years compared to a £94m saving from the five site option. The decision to go with four sites seems to be a response to cost-pressures rather than health needs.
“The Healthier Together process should not disguise the crucial issue facing the NHS, and that is underfunding. There is an urgent need for better funding of our NHS, and in particular there is a need for investment in community services.”