CONTROVERSIAL plans that will see the downgrading of the accident and emergency (A&E) department and loss of other services at Trafford General have been given an initial thumbs-up by health chiefs.

The board that oversees the 'new health deal' for Trafford programme has agreed that the proposed shake-up of services at the hospital should go ahead.

More than 12,500 people signed a petition that was delivered to Downing Street by the Save Trafford General group in October protesting at the plans.

The major changes proposed for the hospital - the birthplace of the NHS - include turning the A & E department into an urgent care centre which will only open between 8am and midnight.

It is estimated that around 75 per cent of the patients that currently use this service would continue to do so. Night patients would go to Salford Royal, Wythenshawe or Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Intensive care and the paediatric observation and assessment unit would also be closed, and emergency surgery would no longer be carried out at the hospital.

Health bosses claim the revamp is vital to address 'pressing clinical and financial issues'.

The Trafford strategic programme board (TSPB), which includes clinicians and representatives from NHS groups, patients and Trafford Council, has accepted the proposals subject to a number of conditions.

These include addressing transport issues for patients. Initiatives will include support for a 'dial and ride' travel scheme and setting up a 'health transport bureau', to ensure appointments are scheduled around patients' transport plans.

TSPB also wants better access to mental health support and improved community facilities in Partington, including community matrons and improved services for the elderly.

Dr Nigel Guest, chief clinical officer at Trafford clinical commissioning group, said: “We are pleased that the proposal has been accepted by the Trafford strategic programme board, subject to conditions, and we are already discussing plans that will help resolve some of the concerns raised by the consultation, such as the issues around transport for patients, and those visiting friends or family in hospital.”

Leila Williams, director of service transformation at NHS Greater Manchester, added: “There are pressing clinical and financial issues to address at Trafford General Hospital, which is why the doctors and nurses who work there are urging for change to happen now.

"However, despite the recommendation from the TSPB, this is an ongoing process and a final decision will not be made until the NHS Greater Manchester board meeting takes place in January.”

More than 1,900 responses were received during a 14-week public consultation into the proposals.

Now the agreed proposal will be sent to the Trafford and Manchester Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JOSC) for its consideration and response.

The TSPB will then agree a final recommendation to submit to the NHS Greater Manchester Board meeting for a final decision, which will be made on January 24.

Health bosses claim the plans will make services at Trafford General Hospital clinically and financially sustainable for the future and provide a more integrated health service to benefit patients. They claim there will be improvements to rehabilitation services for the elderly, outpatient appointments, day case surgery available and creating an orthopaedic centre of excellence will be opened.