NHS Trafford General hospital A&E to close, Jeremy Hunt confirms

Hospital will have its A&E unit downgraded to minor injuries unit as campaigners tell health secretary he has ripped heart out of birthplace of NHS

NHS Trafford General hospital's A&E department is to close, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

The first NHS hospital, from where the health service was launched in 1948, will have A&E services removed between midnight and 8am, and for the rest of the time the unit will be downgraded to an urgent care centre. It will eventually be downgraded to a minor injuries unit.

Emergency surgery will no longer be provided at the site and the intensive care unit will shut.

The move prompted a furious reaction from local campaigners and councillors, who have appealed to Hunt to review the decision, saying they were concerned the plans were "principally financially motivated" and could put pressure on other hospital sites.

"People want and need this A&E unit," said Matthew Finnegan of the Save Trafford General campaign.

"Hunt has ripped the heart out of the birthplace of the NHS, just days after its 65th birthday. He hasn't listened to what local people want.

"There's increasing demand for its services so why close it? There are no community services to replace it. This demonstrates the health secretary's contempt for the remaining services in the Greater Manchester region and we need to campaign to save them."

Health managers have said that the hospital has the second smallest A&E department in the country, with an average of six to 12 people using the service between midnight and 8am.

The consultation document outlining the changes, The New Health Deal for Trafford, claims that patients with serious illnesses can be taken to other hospitals in the region: Salford Royal Hospital, Wythenshawe Hospital or Manchester Royal Infirmary.

The document says that a safe intensive care unit needs to treat a minimum of 200 patients each year, but Trafford General Hospital only admitted 93 patients for intensive care in 2010/11, and some services are "not clinically sustainable" and could "become unsafe in the future".

The move has been approved by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, a non-governmental body made up of clinicians and managers which advices the secretary of state for health on reorganisations in the health service.

In the Commons, Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said the Government was disrespecting patients by rushing out the announcement.

He said it was disgraceful that the Government had not given Labour MP Kate Green, who represents the constituency which is served by Trafford Generall, advance notice of the closure.

Turning to Hunt, Burnham said: "It says a lot about you. Your advisers could find time to get texts sent to the Murdochs with market-sensitive information before an earlier statement you made.

"But you couldn't find time to give a local MP advance notice of a statement about the closure of her accident and emergency department. Disgraceful.

"And not just any A&E - 65 years and six days after Nye Bevan opened the NHS at Trafford Hospital, we have the spectacle of you scurrying to this house to rush out an announcement without the scrutiny of MPs about a major downgrade of the hospital.

"What clearer symbol could you have of a Government that disrespects and disregards the views NHS staff, patients and local people?"

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