HOSPITAL departments could close under cost-cutting merger plans.

The Countess of Chester Hospital’s chief executive, Peter Herring, has confirmed that the trust will merge four major departments with Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in the coming months.

Under the plans, cardiology and urology will be transferred to Arrowe Park, while complex breast cancer treatment and vascular surgery will all relocate to the Countess.

The merger proposals involve the Countess and both Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals, run by Wirral University Hospitals Trust. Mr Herring claims the collaboration will help improve patient care. 

Arrowe Park chief executive Len Richards said the aim was also to develop specialist “centres of excellence” for patients across both counties.  Mr Herring said: “There has been considerable input from clinical staff at both trusts to establish how joint services will be best delivered to our patients.

“In the case of vascular services, Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will continue to provide vascular surgery and other vascular services at Arrowe Park Hospital for the majority of their vascular patients.

“Around 150 patients per year will in future attend a vascular centre for surgery and we have submitted a joint bid with Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to provide a ‘vascular centre’ based on the Countess of Chester site.

He added: “The plans for joint working in vascular services, cardiology services, in-patient urology services and complex breast surgery do not pose a threat to the future of accident and emergency departments at either hospital.

“Joint working will absolutely not mean that the A&E department of either the Countess of Chester Hospital or Arrowe Park Hospital will have to close.”

It is understood that Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, which is a separate trust, will likewise remain unaffected by the changes.

A collaboration between the trusts was announced in December 2009 in an attempt to improve efficiencies in the delivery of “back office” support.

All human resources services have already joined together, and the trusts are in the process of establishing a joint microbiology laboratory.

A dedicated review team will designate the vascular centres. No decision has been yet announced, a hospital spokesman said.