Hospital of St Cross: Accident and Emergency

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 9 June 2022.

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Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 5:00, 9 June 2022

That figure is higher than in 84% of constituencies across England. The travel time is compounded by residents’ uncertainty and lack of clarity about what constitutes a minor injury or illness and whether their need can be met in Rugby or requires travel to Coventry. I frequently hear accounts of residents attending St Cross only to be immediately directed to University Hospital in Coventry. On occasion, I hear about residents who have travelled to Coventry for a very simple matter that could have been dealt with at St Cross.

In response to broader concerns about health provision in Rugby, last autumn I carried out a survey on my website asking about accident and emergency care in Rugby. I very much thank the people of Rugby for their outstanding response: nearly 3,000 residents took the time to have their say. That is an outstanding number for such a survey, and it sends a very clear message to local health decision makers about what Rugby residents want. The key points are that 98.5% of respondents believe that Rugby should have its own accident and emergency department, and 93% believe that Rugby does not currently have adequate accident and emergency care provision.

My survey builds on the work that the Coventry and Warwickshire clinical commissioning group carried out over the summer of 2021, covering all of Warwickshire. That survey had 922 respondents, which is rather fewer than the 3,000 who responded to my survey, but about 600 of those 922 people were Rugby residents. My constituents’ hugely disproportionate participation shows their strength of feeling.

Given the large number of responses, I am pretty confident that the results of my survey were representative of the views of Rugby people more broadly. It is clear that my constituents believe that our town, particularly given its growth, is currently underserved with A&E provision. After conducting my survey, I met Professor Andrew Hardy, the chief executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. He agreed about the high volume and the unanimous response, which I hope the Minister will acknowledge in his remarks.

One issue for the accident and emergency department at UHCW is that it is very large. It has to be, because according to the Library, most accident and emergency departments serve a population of at least 200,000—the average is 320,000—but the accident and emergency department of University Hospital in Coventry serves a population of about 600,000, nearly double the national average.

It is my contention that if we improve the offer at the Hospital of St Cross, pressure on the University Hospital site in Coventry could be alleviated and waiting times could reduce. Of those residents who completed my survey, 52.7% said they had waited more than four hours for treatment on their most recent visit to Coventry.

Regrettably, since my survey was conducted last autumn, the pressures on accident and emergency departments have only increased; I am sure the Minister will acknowledge that. The minutes of the University Hospitals NHS Trust February board meeting noted that the hospital’s occupancy had been over 97% since August 2021, with full hospital protocol occurring in September and early November. However, I was pleased to note that there is an ongoing focus within the trust on using some of the capacity that exists in Rugby to assist the flow in Coventry. It is my contention, and that of my constituents, that the Hospital of St Cross could be used rather more to relieve the pressure.

The concerns of Rugby residents have been compounded by the closure of Rugby community ambulance station in October of last year, along with a number of other ambulance stations across the west midlands. That was a unilateral decision by West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust, which has been opposed by me and by other west midlands MPs. There was no consultation with residents. I was not notified, nor were my parliamentary colleagues: we read about the decision in the press.

It is a simple and regrettable fact that the closure of the community ambulance service in Rugby makes it less likely that there will be an ambulance in Rugby. I believe that if we had ambulances coming to Rugby with patients seeking accident and emergency care, there would be a greater likelihood of an ambulance in the vicinity, and ambulance response times would improve for Rugby residents because ambulances would have a reason to be in Rugby. West Midlands ambulance service says that its service is delivered by people, not buildings, and that the single biggest factor that it faces is handover delays at hospitals. This is a national problem, as the Minister will acknowledge, but, as I have said, if ambulances could come to the Hospital of St Cross rather than going straight to Coventry, there would be a greater likelihood of an ambulance in Rugby able to deal with calls from local residents.

In my survey, I asked Rugby residents this question: if they could change one thing about the NHS locally, what would it be? The vast majority said that they would like to see better accident and emergency provision in Rugby. Others noted difficulties arising from their circumstances. The key theme was the challenge posed by the journey to University Hospital in Coventry. Many residents noted that it was particularly difficult without a car, and that those without cars, who might have had to wait a long time at A&E—until late evening—often ended up returning home in a taxi and paying a large fare that they could ill afford.

I have heard from many constituents about the lack of accident and emergency provision for children under five. One parent wrote:

“My son who is 3 has had 3 fits in the last year and each time we have had to travel to University Hospital”.

Another wrote:

“I have two small children and it terrifies me that I will have to travel so far if they needed emergency care”.

Among the responses from my constituents were a number of heartbreaking accounts, but none was more heartbreaking than an account of an issue that arose in January this year, when my constituent Jamie Rees died of a sudden cardiac arrest. The ambulance that attended the scene had to travel from University Hospital, and given that time lag it had no realistic chance of meeting the category 1 response time, which would have saved Jamie’s life. Jamie’s family have organised an extraordinarily powerful campaign, known as “Our Jay”, to raise more than £10,000 for externally mounted defibrillators. What was so frustrating for the family was the fact that a nearby defibrillator that could have saved Jamie’s life was locked inside a nearby school, which was very sad. There was no externally mounted defibrillator. One reason for people’s unwillingness to provide them is that from time to time they are subject to vandalism and theft.

Jamie’s family have also rightly asked questions of the emergency services, particularly about the impact of the closure of the community ambulance station in Rugby in October. Quite reasonably, they were really bothered about the length of time it took for an ambulance to attend. Jamie’s parents were full of praise for the amazing staff who cared for Jamie, but they rightly point to the importance of that care being accessible at the time it is needed. We know that people in Rugby want to see improved local accident and emergency provision, and I very much hope to have the opportunity to demonstrate this need for an extension to the A&E provision in Rugby when the Secretary of State comes to visit Rugby and St Cross in the near future, which he has kindly committed to do.

Our role as Members of Parliament is to represent the concerns of our constituents here in this place and to seek redress when it is needed. In Rugby, for my constituents, there is no greater issue right now than health provision, and I would not be doing my job as their representative if I was not doing all I could to make sure that that need is met. The Government have quite reasonably asked that towns such as Rugby do their bit to provide the housing that the people of this country need, and Rugby is proudly meeting that challenge. All we ask is that the Government and local health commissioners also do their bit to provide the healthcare that the people of Rugby need and are asking for.