PATIENTS with the most serious of injuries in Greater Manchester will have a better chance of survival and reduced disability thanks to a new life saving service, claim health bosses.

A new major trauma network has been established which will mean all patients with life threatening injuries will have access to rapid assessment, treatment and rehabilitation - which is expected to save 20 lives every year.

The network consists of three major trauma centres supported by three trauma units.

Patients with major injuries will now be taken straight to one of the centres - Manchester Royal Infirmary, Wythenshawe Hospital and Salford Royal Hospital - depending on their type of injury.

The clinical lead of the greater manchester major trauma network, Dr Chris Brookes said; "Major trauma is life threatening or life changing serious physical injury, which typically involves more than one injury. This might include traumatic injury requiring amputation of a limb, severe knife and gunshot wounds, major head injury, multiple injuries to different parts of the body, spinal injury and severe burns. In order to minimise longlasting harm to patients it is important that they have rapid access to the very best skills that the NHS can offer.

"Before the network was established patients would be taken to their nearest hospital, after which they may have been transferred to a more specialist site causing delays. Now the NHS is working together to get these seriously injured patients to the best possible care quickly. This involves the ambulance service working together with the units and the three sites that make up the major trauma centre - this collaboration will quite simply save more lives and allow a better quality of life for survivors."

The changes will affect only a small number of patients with the most seriously life threatening injuries, about 450 cases per year in Greater Manchester. There will be no change to the service for the vast majority of A&E cases which will continue to be dealt with at local departments.

The Greater Manchester major trauma network will work across a range of NHS organisations operating from the moment a 999 call comes in to the time, maybe months later, when a patient returns home.

The major trauma centres will each play to their strengths so that patients will be treated by the hospital that specialises in that injury. For example, patients with head injury will be taken to Salford Royal, patients with major burns will be taken to Wythenshawe Hospital and patients with penetrating injuries will be taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary. Children with major trauma will be transferred to the Royal Manchester Childrens Hospital.

Mr Brendan Ryan, University Hospital of South Manchester's medical director and consultant in emergency medicine, said: "The establishment of a major trauma network for Greater Manchester will lead to better, faster treatment for those people with very complex and life threatening injuries. Ultimately, not only will this mean more lives being saved, but also better outcomes for people recovering from life-changing injuries. "

The major trauma centres will be supported by three trauma units - Royal Oldham Hospital, Stepping Hill in Stockport and the Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan - should a seriously injured adult or child be unable to be transferred safely directly from the accident scene to the appropriate Major Trauma Centre.

The changes will be implemented over a phased six month period. Initially the service will be available from 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday. Later in the year this will be extended to 8am until 8pm seven days a week, and in time the service will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.