AN NHS troubleshooter has been called in by health secretary Patricia Hewitt to try to quell public outcry in places such as Buckinghamshire where there is strong opposition to changes.

Sir Ian Carruthers, who until recently was the acting head of the NHS, is set to start a six-month review of all plans by NHS trusts across the country to cut or centralise hospital services.

He will tour places such as Bucks, where more than a thousand people have been backing our sister paper The Star's Don't Do It Hewitt campaign, which aims to safeguard Wycombe Hospital's A&E department.

In January a Free Press delegation also travelled to Downing Street to hand over a Dossier of Despair to Tony Blair which listed the fears of more than 450 readers about the forthcoming move of maternity and childrens' services from Wycombe to Stoke Mandeville Hospital near Aylesbury.

Stuart McFadyen, a Department of Health spokesman, said Sir Ian would be visiting all the areas where there was great opposition to Patricia Hewitt's plans to streamline the NHS.

He said: "This will not affect the reform timetable or the responsibility of the local NHS to lead and deliver service change.

"Service change is a necessary but complex process and it is important that the NHS shares learning and expertise on how to get it right. Sir Ian has over 30 years experience of managing change in the NHS and is well placed to draw out the lessons for the future."