Chester MP Chris Matheson has vowed to fight any potential closure of the Countess of Chester Hospital after a leaked email proposed cost-cutting measures on the Wirral and in West Cheshire.
Health bosses have mooted plans to shut the Countess as well as Wirral’s Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals and move them all to a new site in Ellesmere Port, according to sources.
The Chronicle's sister title the Liverpool ECHO understands high-level talks have taken place about the possibility of merging Wirral and Chester’s hospitals into a single unit.
The NHS said it has “no current plans” to merge the hospitals, but admitted “all options” are being considered.
The ECHO has seen a leaked email that describes a meeting in which senior officials reportedly discussed how the Countess of Chester, Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals could be replaced by a single unit in Ellesmere Port.
Concerned Chester MP Chris Matheson said he would launch a community campaign of opposition if necessary.
He said: "I will be speaking to local management of the NHS for clarification.
"But believe me now, I will fight any proposed closure of the Countess of Chester Hospital with every drop of blood in my body.
"I warned about how the Tories wanted to destroy the NHS before last election but I expected it be around privatised services, I didn't expect anything like this."
The potential changes come just weeks after a bombshell report revealed the Royal Liverpool, Broadgreen, Aintree and Liverpool Women’s hospitals could also merge as the NHS faces a £1bn black hole in Merseyside and Cheshire.
Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood said the closure of Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge would be “devastating”.
And Ellesmere Port MP Justin Madders blasted the “secrecy” surrounding NHS planning.
The cost of running the NHS in Merseyside and Cheshire will rise to £6.8bn over the next five years, but funding will only be £5.8bn.
This leaves health chiefs with a £999m gap to plug and they are drawing up a sustainability and transformation plan (STP) to explain how they will do this.
'If they go ahead, the closures of Arrowe Park Hospital, Clatterbridge Hospital and the Countess of Chester would be devastating for the people of West Wirral.'
A draft version of the STP, seen by the ECHO, says: “To transform our services, we need to reduce demand, reduce unwarranted variation and reduce cost.”
The document says there is an “appetite for hospital re-configuration” because the existing set-up is “currently unaffordable”.
The leaked email says the “direction of travel” is towards hospital mergers, adding that Arrowe Park, Clatterbridge and the Countess of Chester will be “replaced” by a single hospital somewhere near Ellesmere Port at some point.
Ms Greenwood said: “I’m shocked to hear about this proposal. If they go ahead, the closures of Arrowe Park Hospital, Clatterbridge Hospital and the Countess of Chester would be devastating for the people of West Wirral.
“Many of my constituents work at Arrowe Park hospital and many more rely on the services of all three hospitals.
“The closure of these hospitals would mean patients having to travel long distances to get treatment, relatives finding it harder to visit family members in hospital and longer commutes for hospital staff.”
Mr Madders added: “This highlights perfectly why the current secrecy surrounding STP plans is completely unacceptable.
“We are calling for the immediate release of all papers that have been drawn up already and the start of an honest and transparent dialogue with the public over plans.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “We can confirm that there are no current plans to develop a single site hospital for Wirral and Cheshire, however, all options to achieve clinical and financial sustainability are being considered as part of the STP development process.
“Radical solutions may be discussed in meetings but then not included in the final Cheshire and Merseyside STP document.
“We need to do this initial work before we are in a position to formally release the STP document.”