Bosses blamed over Birch Ward closure at the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby

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THE process that led to the closure of Birch Ward at St Cross has been criticised by the chairman of a county council health scrutiny committee.

The ward closed down on November 30 to save money. It was the last general care ward at St Cross. On Friday December 16 Warwickshire’s adult social care and health overview and scrutiny committee met to discuss the processes that led to its closure. Despite the committee’s findings there are no plans to have another consultation or reconsider the closure.

Cllr Les Caborn, chair of the committee, said the consultation process had not been adequate - either for the people of Rugby or local councillors.

“It was a good meeting and I think Andrew Hardy, chief executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, acknowledged that the processes hadn’t been good enough.

“But he did point out that the circumstances had been made more difficult for the health trust due to the fact that it was a whistleblower that had revealed the ward’s closure publically.”

Mr Hardy said that on most days there were not enough Rugby patients to fill the ward and beds were used by Coventry patients or those from further afield.

Defending the lack of consultation, he described the closure as “temporary” as it could be reopened to accommodate an increase in demand, that demand for beds was falling and that fewer patients were being referred by GPs.

He added that £3 million has been spent on new buildings and services at St Cross, and that there were no redundancies as a result of the closure of Birch Ward.

Last week Rugby MP Mark Pawsey took a cross-party delegation of Rugby councillors to a meeting with health minister, Simon Burns, to consider the decision by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust to close Birch Ward.

Seaking after the meeting, Mr Pawsey said: “The minister acknowledged that there had not been effective engagement with local people on this matter and understands concerns about when the ward will reopen. He has accepted the clinical arguments UHCW have put foward for the closure of Birch Ward and he drew attention in our discussions to there having been a drop in elective surgery and an increase in levels of care in the home. I remain determined to ensure no further reductions at our local hospital.”