A FRESH bid to save Frenchay Hospital from being downgraded has been branded a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

South Gloucestershire Council's health scrutiny committee is to make a fresh referral to the Health Secretary Alan Johnson asking him to launch an independent review into the Bristol Health Services Plan (BHSP).

The motion was proposed by Lib Dem Cllr Sue Hope and supported by the Conservatives after Mr Johnson sent the council a letter stating his support for the Bristol Health Services Plan.

The BHSP is to reduce Frenchay to a community hospital, losing its accident and emergency department and around 600 beds, and turn Southmead into a £374million acute hospital.

But Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have said the motion is doomed to fail.

Labour health spokesman Cllr Andy Perkins said: "As a council we really ought to focus on the future, and that means our priority should be talking to the NHS about what South Gloucestershire residents need in all the new facilities that will come out of the plan.

"Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors know full well that yet another request to the Secretary of State will fail, but they are simply intent on playing political games.

"We are diverting our attention and wasting time and energy with these repeated attempts to rerun the process."

Northavon MP Steve Webb defended the council's decision and claimed there was still hope for Frenchay campaigners.

He said: "The health scrutiny committee of the council is the one body with the legal authority to ask the Secretary of State to get this decision looked at again.

"As Alan Johnson has told Parliament that he will routinely agree to such requests, there is now a real chance that the decision to downgrade Frenchay could be scrutinised by an independent panel.

"This is all that we have been asking for all along. After recent setbacks this is the best possible news for those who believe that Frenchay is the best place for the new 'superhospital' to serve our area."