Hospital of St Cross: Accident and Emergency

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 9 June 2022.

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Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 4:52, 9 June 2022

It is a great pleasure to see the Minister in his place. It is a particular pleasure to have been granted this debate on health provision in Rugby—one of the most important issues for my constituents, because my predecessor and father, Jim Pawsey, held such a debate concerning the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby 25 years ago. Much has changed in the intervening period, but the hospital remains as dear to Rugby residents’ hearts now as it was then. In particular, I want to talk about the provision of accident and emergency care at the Hospital of St Cross. In the course of my speech, I will first set out the current facilities available to Rugby residents, and then go on to make the case for improved and increased provision.

The urgency of today’s debate arises because of the increasing number of cases of concern being brought to my attention by my constituents. They are currently directed to the University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire site at Walsgrave in Coventry, 12 miles away. One constituent told me that when he needed to visit A&E, it took 22 hours for his condition to be fully assessed due to the very high number of patients waiting for treatment. He suggested, as I will today, that to help to alleviate pressure in Coventry, the Hospital of St Cross should be used more widely.

Another constituent told me that they were taken to University Hospital by ambulance one evening after suffering heart palpitations. Although the ambulance arrived at their home within 45 minutes, once they arrived at the hospital it took an hour to be taken into the care of the hospital because of the queue of ambulances waiting to discharge their patients. My constituent told me that the care they went on to receive at the hospital was good. That is a recurring theme throughout all the cases that have been brought to me: the care, once it is received, is excellent, but it is taking far too long to access it.

According to the history of the hospital written by the Rugby local history group, the importance of timely emergency care was the catalyst for the foundation of the Hospital of St Cross. In 1882, an engineer on the railway running through Rugby had a serious accident and his leg had to be swiftly amputated. At that time, victims of such accidents were normally taken by rail to either Birmingham or Northampton, but on this occasion, there was not time. The engineer’s leg was amputated on a bed in a small hospital on Castle Street in Rugby because there was not an operating table. Sadly, the amputation was not enough to save the young man’s life. When Mrs Elizabeth Wood heard of the engineer’s fate, she presented the hospital with an operating table, and subsequently, the land for the new hospital. The Hospital of St Cross remains 140 years later. The hospital today offers a number of high-quality specialist services, including orthopaedic and ophthalmic procedures and the recently added haematology service.

In respect of emergency care, there is a minor injury and minor illness unit, which is a nurse-led service for patients over the age of five. Rugby residents can attend for small wounds, animal stings, some sports injuries, minor injuries or suspected broken bones. X-rays, blood tests and a pharmacy are available, but, significantly, for anything complex or for a serious injury, residents must travel to Coventry.

Rugby residents were bitterly disappointed in 1997 when the A&E service at St Cross was downgraded as part of a wider move away from the district general hospital model and towards a higher concentration of specialists at a smaller number of sites. At the time, serious concerns had surfaced about the quality of some of the clinical services, which resulted in the board of the Rugby NHS trust agreeing to merge with Walsgrave Hospitals NHS trust in February 1997.

The royal colleges were invited to make reports on the services. The Royal College of Surgeons noted that Rugby’s catchment area was not at that time—that is the significant bit: it was not then—large enough to provide sufficient opportunities for clinicians to maintain their skills and deliver a safe service. A further justification was that, as medical science advanced, the days of the general surgeon had ended while the required number of support staff and the cost of complex equipment had increased.

Since that 1997 decision, the population served by the Hospital of St Cross has changed substantially. The local authority in Rugby has always been pro-growth. I have been very keen to see the many housing developments in Rugby in recent years, simply because we need to meet the challenge of enabling the next generation to own their own home and because we welcome the additional footfall for our town centre at a time when high streets face stiff competition from online retailers.

Between 2001 and 2011, the population of the Rugby borough grew from 85,000 to 100,000. I expect the 2021 census data to indicate similar or greater growth than that. Rugby is one of the fastest growing places in the UK and has an ambitious local plan that expects an additional 12,500 new homes by 2031. Accordingly, we can expect a population rise of about 30,000 people.

As part of the new developments, we have seen new roads and new schools. The people of Rugby also rightly expect to see a commensurate increase in the health services provided. There are plans for increased primary care provision. Whitehall medical practice has recently expanded and there will be additional provision in Houlton—a new housing area of Rugby—and the south-west development area, which should relieve the pressure on existing GP practices.

However, over recent years it has become clear from constituency cases brought to me and from discussions on the doorstep that Rugby residents are increasingly concerned about the provision of accident and emergency care and the impact of population increases on services. Most treatment is provided at Coventry, which is about 20 minutes’ drive from Rugby on a good day, and realistically at least half an hour’s drive for most Rugby residents. I understand from information provided by the Library that 83% of my constituents live more than 15 minutes’ drive from a major accident and emergency department.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Rebecca Harris.)