A leaked report have shown plans to downgrade three A&E units in Cheshire and Merseyside as part of NHS budget cuts.

NHS bosses in Cheshire and Merseyside have been asked to make £909m cuts by 2020, however have played down talks of immediate closures.

The report suggested that two of the three A&E units in Warrington, Knowsley and Southport may not continue to treat the most serious conditions, or be open around the clock.

The NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside said proposals to downgrade A&E departments had been removed from the most recent draft of its sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).

Louise Shepherd, leading work on the Cheshire and Merseyside STP, said the plan “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 be delivered in the future.”

A final version of the STP is due to be published in the next few weeks.

A decision is also yet to be made by NHS England’s Mid and South Essex Success Regime, where Basildon Hospital is believed to become the major A&E centre. Plans to downgrade A&E departments in Broomfield Hospital and Southend to walk-in centres have come under fire.

Andy Abbott, spokesperson for Chelmsford Momentum Group, said: It looks to us that this is a cost-cutting exercise, which is going to play with the lives of people in Essex.

“There are very poor public transport links between Chelmsford and Basildon. If you want to go by train you have to go via London and the bus service is poor. This will increase pressure on the already strained ambulance service.”

11,600 people have signed a Government petition, calling for Southend A&E to be saved, due to the 18 mile distance between Basildon and Southend.

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