A shake-up of NHS services in Greater Manchester means that emergency patients from rural communities could soon face up to an hour in an ambulance in order to get to their closest emergency hospital.
The Healthier Together reforms have recently gone out to consultation and the plans include five specialist hospitals for Greater Manchester, including two from the following list – Wythenshawe, Stockport, Wigan and Bolton. All other hospitals in the area would then be classed local hospitals and would lose the ability to perform emergency surgery.
Councillors in the High Peak area have raised concerns about emergency times form people travelling from these areas should the plans be approved. At the moment, Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport is the emergency destination for the people living in more rural areas. However, if this lost its emergency status, ambulances could be forced to travel as far as Wythenshawe in order for them to receive the necessary emergency treatment.
The journey from Buxton to Wythenshawe – which passes Stepping Hill Hospital – can easily take more than an hour in bad weather and traffic. The new plans include standards for patients to be able to reach an emergency hospital in 45 minutes.
Last year, 3,630 people travelled from the High Peak area for emergency treatment at Stepping Hill Hospital – making up 12% of all ambulances arriving there.
Leader of High Peak Borough Council, Councillor Caitlin Bisknell said:
“I’m very concerned about this. Stepping Hill is the only option for people in the High Peak. It’s ridiculous that they could have to be taken elsewhere in an emergency. It’s very worrying.”
It seems other officials share these concerns as assistant director for operations at East Midlands Ambulance Service – the service responsible for transporting patients from areas like Buxton and New Mills – said:
“We are seeking assurances from Healthier Together that an appropriate assessment has been made of any impact on the ambulance service.”
A spokesman for Healthier Together said that it would carry out a review, the results of which would be included in the final decision making. He said:
“Although only a very small number of patients would be affected, in response to questions and concerns raised we have worked to understand further the travel times for residents living in the High Peak. This analysis is underway.”