DISGRUNTLED Knutsfordians have blasted a decision by health bosses to permanently close an in-patient ward at the town’s community hospital.

In a meeting – attended by more than 50 residents – at St John’s Church hall last Thursday the East Cheshire NHS Trust board decided to close the 18-bed Tatton Ward.

However, it added outpatient and community services would not be affected by the decision.

The trust temporarily closed the unit in September 2010 citing a struggle to employ a doctor to head the unit’s team of nurses.

A public consultation into the ward’s permanent closure ran from last November to February 24 this year and at the meeting the trust revealed that it had attracted just 83 responses despite six events held across the area and more than 8,000 documents delivered to 40 locations including GPs, libraries and shops.

The trust stressed that although the ward was based in the town it was used by people from across the region – and 68 patients from Knutsford GP practices were treated there in the 12 months before it closed in 2010, representing 31 per cent of admissions.

It also set up a website as part of the consultation, which attracted 1,663 visitors.

But residents have called the meeting a ‘disgrace’.

In a letter to the Guardian, Thomas and Linda Coleman, who attended the meeting, said: “This sham of a meeting was simply so that all the ‘i’s’ could be dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed for the purposes of a dusty report filed somewhere.”

But Dr Robert Stead, medical director at the trust, said: “Better clinical quality has been provided at Macclesfield District General Hospital in the period Tatton Ward has been non operational.

“Macclesfield also better meets the required quality standards, including no mixed sex accommodation on wards.”

Health campaigners in the town also said they felt let down after deputy chief executive Val Aherne, who also held the director of strategy role at the trust, left the organisation this week to join Central Manchester Hospitals Foundation Trust.