RESIDENTS directly aired their fears to NHS managers over hospital plans for Hampshire.

Alex Whitfield and Nick Ward took questions on the proposed £700-900m reorganisation of hospitals in central and north Hampshire.

Under the plans the Royal Hampshire County Hospital would see its A&E unit closed, maternity unit dowgraded and a new specialist acute care hospital opened in or near Basingstoke.

Ms Whitfield, chief executive of the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Dr Ward, the trust's interim chief medical officer, spoke to callers on Radio Solent.

They said the changes would improve the quality of care for people across the area. The new hospital is expected to open in 2032. A decision on the location of the new hospital, either on the current Basingstoke hospital site or at Dummer by junction 7 of the M3, would be made in the summer. The public consultation runs until March.

But one caller, Philip Glassborow, from Winchester, said: "I'm very concerned about the closure of the A&E unit. The figures given are that 60 per cent of existing traffic will be able to be handled by GPs at the urgent treatment centre but 40 per cent will need to go to the real A&E at Basingstoke. It seems crazy to do that.

"Winchester is a big city with growing houses and we need to have an A&E. It rips the guts out of the hospital and relegates it to a third division hospital.

"No A&E suggests no intensive care unit and no acute medical ward, that really concerns me."

Ms Whitfield said: "I hear the concern. We want to provide the best care we can for the people of Winchester. By reconfiguring it in this way we can improve the quality of care."

She said Winchester would have £100m invested in improving services. There is no space to create a new state of the art hospital. Basingstoke is the best location for the north of the county.

But a caller from Stockbridge said public transport to Basingstoke is poor and taxis cost £80-90. She said the trust is hoping volunteer drivers will fill the gap.

Dr Ward said the RHCH would focus on planned operations leaving Basingstoke to concentrate on acute care. Hospitals had been specialising for many years. Heart attack patients go to Basingstoke whilst stroke patients go to the RHCH.

Dr Ward said ambulance journey times were important, but also important is who is there when the ambulance arrives. By centralising specialisms "we can ensure that the right people are there when the ambulance doors open, to be seen more effectively by the right people" .

A public meeting is being held tomorrow (Tuesday) at Weeke Community Centre in Winchester at 3pm.