Plans to dissolve Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust approved by Monitor
Plans to dissolve the trust that runs the scandal-hit Stafford Hospital have been approved by the health watchdog, Monitor.
Trust Special Administrators (TSA) laid out plans in December to downgrade Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and move some services to other hospitals.
The trust has been in administration since April.
The plans have been passed to the secretary of state who has 30 working days to announce his decision.
The Support Stafford Hospital group said it awaited Jeremy Hunt's decision and hoped it would be "sooner rather than later, so as to end the long period of uncertainty caused by the TSA process".
Under the proposals, control of Stafford Hospital will go to University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) and Cannock Hospital will be run by Royal Wolverhampton Trust.
Maternity services, paediatrics and critical care at Stafford Hospital will be downgraded.
Monitor chief executive Dr David Bennett said: "Making changes to local healthcare services is never easy, or necessarily popular with the general public.
"Neither does change in a complicated system like the NHS come cheap. Nevertheless, it is absolutely essential that patients are able to access safe services today, tomorrow and well into the future."
Monitor said its statutory powers with regard to the TSA were "quite specific" - for example it could "only accept or reject their recommendations" and could not "amend them".
The TSA has previously said it would take three years, from the secretary of state's agreement, to implement proposed changes at a total cost of £220m.
Campaigners fighting to keep services at Stafford Hospital have sent an open letter to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which commissions healthcare services in the town.
The Support Stafford Hospital group has asked the CCG to reaffirm its commitment to retain a number of services at the hospital.
Its chief officer stated in December that the CCG would commission "services that the community deemed as essential", regardless of the TSA plans.
The letter is also signed by Stafford's Conservative MP, Jeremy Lefroy, and the leader of Stafford Borough Council, Mike Heenan.
The group said it would hold a public meeting in Stafford on 28 January which the CCG would attend.
The government is making clear there will be a full Parliamentary debate over the hospital.
Commons Leader Andrew Lansley said: "The prime minister made it clear that we do look for a debate on the Francis Report [published following the inquiry into events at Stafford Hospital] in due course."