The children’s ward at Stafford Hospital will shut next March, staff have been told.
The move has been slammed by campaigners and Stafford’s MP who say the transfer of services from the troubled site is being rushed through.
Part of the Shugborough Ward, which treated 3,126 children in 2013/14, will shut, meaning youngsters will not be able to stay at the hospital overnight and would be transferred to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke.
Stafford will keep a paediatric assessment unit and services for day cases, but if they need longer term treatment, patients will go to Stoke.
UHNS said it was meeting with staff and would publish its plans for the transfer of services in September.
It would not confirm the closure date of the inpatient unit but staff say they have been told it will be in March. The closure of ward, which opened in 1983, was already part of the plans for the overhaul of the hospital, but the Support Stafford Hospital group says the downgrading of the site was meant to take at least three years.
Jeremy Hunt approved the original proposals for the hospital’s future drawn up by the Trust Special Administrators in February. Campaigner Julian Porter said: “We heard there had been meetings between bosses at both hospitals on Wednesday. We are furious about the decision.
“This is just far too rushed. The TSA said this move would happen within three to five years. How can something like this happen so fast?”
They also dispute the number of children treated in the ward, claiming it is higher than the trust figure. In an open letter to Mr Hunt, Support Stafford Hospital said the transfer of services was a ‘rushed and flawed process’.
They said: “At your recent meeting with Jeremy Lefroy it was agreed that no services would be moved without a ‘double lock’ system. This meant that no services were to be transferred without management from both Hospitals agreeing that capacity was ready and that an independent body would also review the movements before implementation. This has not happened.”
Mark Hackett, chief executive of UHNS, said: “We are working with clinical staff across both sites. These include consideration of the transfer of paediatrics, acute surgery and obstetrics.
“We have listened to a comments around the transfer of paediatrics and obstetrics and will consider these in our plans. The plans, available in September 2014, will take into consideration these helpful comments.”