KEEP services at St Cross – that is the message from the new boss of the NHS.
Simon Stevens called for a greater role for local hospitals such as Rugby’s in providing community health care after starting his job as the new chief executive of the NHS.
He said district general-style hospitals should return to a more prominent role in treating patients within their communities, and could particularly meet the needs of older patients.
University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire (UHCW) which runs St Cross has made significant investments there in recent years after threatening it with closure in the mid-1990s.
But public concern over its long-term future was never far away while an online petition to restore full services and facilities, including an A&E and maternity unit, has attracted just under 2,500 signatures since March.
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey welcomed Mr Stevens’ comments.
“I, and many of my constituents, have been fighting for the retention of services at the Hospital of St Cross and I welcome the sentiments of Simon Stevens.
“The hospital is an invaluable local facility and since becoming Rugby’s MP I have remained in constant contact with the chief executive of UHCW, making clear that present services at the hospital must be protected and retained.”
Mr Pawsey said he would be seeking further opinions on how St Cross could be better used to meet residents’ needs in the future.
A spokesman for NHS Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which pays for health care services – said it was not possible to provide all health care services from each location.
They said to ensure services were safe some clinical care had to be provided at a specialist centres where there was the right clinical expertise.
“We have an annual budget of £553million. This is being spent on key areas such as hospital, community health and mental health services on behalf of a population of 460,000 people.
“Above all, the patient experience is, and always will be, central to our commissioning decisions. Through our commissioning arrangements we are challenging and supporting health services to help them improve.”
The government would be obliged to consider the online petition if it attracted more than 100,000 signatures before the closing date of March 3 next year. Log on to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/61666 to sign it.