12:03PM, Wednesday 01 February 2012
Maidenhead MP Theresa May has demanded answers from the chair of the NHS board which wielded the axe over Charles Ward at St Mark's Hospital in Maidenhead.
In an open letter she said she was 'disappointed' with the decision and asked NHS Berkshire chief executive Charles Waddicor for details about support that will be available for mental health patients and their families.
Last week the NHS board decided to close the ward and move the elderly inpatients, who have conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia, to Prospect Park Hospital in Reading.
The Home Secretary said: "The decision to close Charles Ward will have caused great concern to many local residents."
She said promises over increased community services and a transport scheme must materialise and added: "There can be no backtracking on this, and both these things must be in place when Charles Ward closes."
Mr Waddicor's reply said it is unlikely Charles Ward will move this year and assured Mrs May that community services and the transport scheme will be in place before the move.
Dr Jeremy Harding, the ward's consultant psychiatrist for 20 years, also said he was disappointed with how public opinion was 'disregarded'.
He expressed concerns about what will happen to the empty ward and said: "The present proposal for older people in Maidenhead is not acceptable as it ignores local choice and wastes a good building. The money that has been spent running Charles Ward should not be allowed to be spent running Prospect Park Hospital."
A spokesman for NHS Berkshire said: "There are as yet no plans for the use of Charles Ward but Berkshire Healthcare Trust (BHT) has made it clear that it sees St Mark's Hospital, Maidenhead, as playing a key role as a hub for the provision of local healthcare."
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