APPROVED plans to create a vascular centre have been thrown into doubt after health chiefs in Bolton objected to a partnership with the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Last year it was announced that Blackburn would become one of three centres for specialist vascular surgery, bringing an end to complex operations in Bolton.

The aim was to create a ‘centre of excellence’ for disorders of the veins and arteries with patients from Bolton being treated by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) to increase the volume of work and maintain consultants’ skills.

The shake-up was recommended by the Vascular Society, which said hospitals should perform a minimum number of specialist procedures each year, and approved by health secretary Jeremy Hunt last summer.

But now bosses at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust have raised concerns over the arrangement and sought assurances about its long-term sustainability.

Martin Hodgson, director of service development at ELHT, said: “It’s fair to say there was some consternation from Bolton.

“We are in dialogue but it’s quite protracted. If Bolton don’t partner with us then we don’t meet the standard and the whole thing could unravel.”

He said that Bolton was considering being part of a Greater Manchester network instead and added: “It would leave Preston as the only game in town but they can’t cope with our population coming in.”

ELHT has been in special measures since July after NHS inspectors made wide-ranging criticisms of the way it was run.

Heather Edwards, head of communications at the Bolton trust, said the vascular issue ‘has nothing to do with East Lancashire being in special measures’.

She said there were ‘ongoing discussions between the clinicians’ but did not give an answer when asked to explain the concerns.

The proposed changes form part of a regional re-organisation which would see conditions which need complex surgery, such as abdominal aortic aneurysms, treated in Blackburn, Carlisle and Preston.

Lancaster, Bolton, Blackpool and Wigan will lose specialist surgery but keep routine procedures.