Barlow's Beef: Secretive hospital closure plans are deja-vu


Last week a report leaked to the press indicated that the Cheshire and Merseyside Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) included a downgrade of the A&E department at Macclesfield General Hospital to a minor injuries unit.

National NHS bodies had specifically requested STP leaders not to reveal plans to the public and to refuse Freedom of Information requests. (One can only wonder why?)

Immediately after these leaked plans were published health bosses claimed it was a 'mistake' and there were absolutely no plans to downgrade A&E facilities at Macclesfield General.

So... what to believe?

Eleven years ago I reported on similar plans to close both the Maternity and A&E departments at Macclesfield General as part of the same cost-cutting measures.

NHS Bosses declared a 'public consultation' then went to great lengths to make those 'public' meetings as inconvenient as possible announcing the location at the last minute often timed when most people would be at work.

It was total manipulation with the outcome predetermined before the consultation process even began. What they hadn't anticipated was the depth of outrage in the community and the commitment and determination of campaigners who organised group transport at a moment's notice wherever and whenever meetings were held.

National press exposure and a massive 50,000 signature petition finally persuaded Health chiefs to back down. The idiocy of ferrying urgent cases down the A6 in rush hour with the resultant loss of life was a banner headline they were not prepared to risk.

Yet here we are again with the same old secrecy and the same old assurances we were given in 2005. Had it not been for the perseverance of the local media and the determination of campaign groups these same plans would have been instituted before anyone even knew about them.

Is it logical at a time when politicians are destroying the green belt to accommodate population growth that we downgrade our health care facilities forcing more ambulances onto increasingly congested roads?

Where's the joined-up thinking? You don't increase the number of train carriages and reduce engines at the same time. Unless, of course, you are simply solving one problem by creating another somewhere else.

I'd like to take the STP at their word and believe there are GENUINELY no plans to downgrade facilities at Macclesfield General Hospital. Given my previous experience, however, I think it would be extremely unwise.

Vigilance is the key.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlow's Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Tuesday 22nd November 2016 at 12:46 pm
I am totally confused about what is going on. What I did find is the "draft NHS transformation plan" for "Cheshire and Merseyside" (dated 15th November 2016). This immediately sounded alarm bells. It struck me that whoever had written it knows nothing about the locality, its terrain, its transport infrastructure etc. The "lead" organisation for "our footprint" is apparently Alder Hey. We are politely told in the introduction that they are working for "our communities" and the "whole region". As to the rest of the document - the NHS "communications department" has obviously worked overtime on producing gibberish - so I cut to the chase at the end. The headline for the final chapter is "Delivering the change". Suffice it to say that when I read the statement, "where there is a need to formally consult with the public, staff and stakeholders on options for making major changes to services, ensure that standards of best practice are adhered to. Provide peer support, advice and guidance to support this and if necessary seek external expertise". So there you have it - agree or else.
Christopher Baker
Thursday 24th November 2016 at 8:04 am
You will find examples of the discussion of these issues in the national media at ("NHS bosses 'trying to keep cuts secret' ") and at ("Two thirds of doctors not consulted on NHS plans to cut A&Es and beds"), for example.
Having recently taken someone to Macclesfield A&E, I think it is not credible to claim that it could be closed without damage to patients. I suggest that now is the time to ask our MPs to represent local views, if people have not already done so: see
Simon Worthington
Thursday 24th November 2016 at 9:22 am
Macclesfield hospital sits on a piece of valuable real estate and costs money to run and provides little cash for the council. Our inconvenience, which will lead to the residents of north Cheshire relying on Crewe or Chester hospitals, is of little interest when so much income is at stake. Fortunately Wythenshawe is within easy reach and nothing to do with our mob.