A PUBLIC consultation is being launched to permanently close Knutsford’s Tatton Ward.

Those affected are urged to have their say during the 14 week process, which starts on November 19.

It is a further blow for healthcare campaigners after Cheshire East councillors made the decision to close respite care centre Bexton Court earlier in the year.

Tatton Ward at Knutsford and District Community Hospital was temporarily closed in August 2010 and since then there have been doubts over its future.

It was initially blamed on a staff shortage of one doctor.

The permanent closure of the 18-bed intermediate care ward in Bexton Road is part of East Cheshire NHS Trust’s ‘vision’ to ‘transform the services in Knutsford into services that are fit for today’s demands and can be afforded in today’s financial context’.

A spokesman for East Cheshire NHS Trust said: “An extensive programme has been arranged to ensure that as many people as possible have their say on the proposals.

“No decision will be made without the views of local people being considered.

“Since the temporary closure of Tatton Ward in September 2010, East Cheshire NHS Trust has looked carefully at the long term benefits to its patients of reopening it “But it is recommending permanent closure, with alternative, superior, facilities provided by Macclesfield District General Hospital and those soon to be set out in the vision for a new health and wellbeing Centre in Knutsford.”

But Charlotte Peters Rock, spokesman for Knutsford Area for Knutsford Action (KAFKA), said the closure is causing hardship for carers where transport is a difficulty.

She reckons the ward should remain open until the ‘vision’ is confirmed and built.

Mrs Peters Rock, who cares for her husband Cyril, who suffers from dementia, said: “They talk of these wonderful new facilities but there is no money.

“We have buildings and we should cut our coat according to our cloth. Many of the people affected are too old to fight back and that’s why I’m still fighting.

“I think the way the elderly are being treated at the moment is abominable. These are the people who have paid the most for care in their lifetime.”

The majority of Tatton Ward’s patients are being treated at Macclesfield District General Hospital’s Ward 10 with access to more therapy and diagnostic facilities.

Meanwhile, plans for Knutsford’s new medical centre are being developed and are set to be launched in early 2013.

Val Aherne, deputy chief executive of East Cheshire NHS Trust, added: “Patient care is no longer just about how many beds are available, it’s about delivering the best care in the right place.

“That not only means putting more emphasis on prevention, it also means enabling patients to be treated at home, reducing the need to stay in hospital.

“The facilities at Ward 10 in Macclesfield District General Hospital are better able to do that than those at Tatton Ward and we remain committed to ensuring the best possible care for the greatest number.”

The consultation ends on week beginning February 4, 2013.