THE leader of Cheshire East Council has said the authority will not support any proposal to downgrade Macclesfield Hospital's accident and emergency department following the publication of a report that said it was being considered.

Health bosses in the region have been asked to make more than £900million in cuts by 2020.

Changes in units, including Macclesfield's A&E department, were included in a report published as part of the Cheshire and Merseyside Sustainability and Transformation Programme (STP).

NHS chiefs in Cheshire and Merseyside have played down talk of immediate closures and added that any A&E changes would first need 'a strong clinical evidence base' and 'demonstrate a positive impact in terms of quality, safety and sustainability'.

A spokesperson for the Cheshire and Merseyside Sustainability and Transformation Programme (STP) said: "The STP does signal intentions in some areas to conduct reviews of current urgent and emergency care services, to assess whether there may be clinical or sustainability issues which should be addressed.

"This may lead over time to options being proposed to change the way some services may delivered in the future.

"Any proposals to change A&E services would have to have a strong clinical evidence base and demonstrate a positive impact in terms of quality, safety and sustainability. "Patients and the public would be closely involved in the journey to develop any proposals, which ultimately would be subject to a public formal consultation.

"The STP submission is based on draft plans, following initial discussions with clinicians and health and social care leaders.

"Once we receive feedback from national partners we will publish the document to kick-start wider discussions with the public and to firm up the ideas in more detail. We are aiming to publish the document on November 16."

But Cllr Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council, released a statement the plan does not 'meet the need of putting residents first'.

“While this council has been a partner with the clinical commissioning groups in some projects delivered locally, it has not, and will not support Macclesfield hospital having its accident and emergency unit downgraded to a minor injury unit," she said.

“This council has a clear policy of putting its residents first and this plan does not meet that basic need. We have spoken to the clinical commissioning group and said that it is essential that we work together closely to ensure that the needs of our residents are met.

“I have also been quite clear that together, we must explore further options to make the local NHS more sustainable.

“The council is committed to working in partnership with our NHS colleagues to help transform services to meet local needs.”

John Wilbraham, Chief Executive for East Cheshire NHS Trust said “No decision has been taken to change the A & E service at Macclesfield Hospital. 

"Media coverage of the Cheshire and Merseyside Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) has highlighted the fact that the local NHS faces significant financial and clinical challenges.

"To address these challenges the Eastern Cheshire Caring Together programme is looking at how future services are best configured to meet local needs and are also clinically sustainable and affordable. 

"It is important to note that any plans developed for any major service change would be subject to public consultation.”