A LEADING MP has stepped into the row over the threatened closure of wards at a Wirral hospital.

Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey, expressed 'grave concern' about Wirral primary care trusts' plans for Victoria Central Hospital. The trust wants to 'streamline' admission of elderly patients to VCH, which trade unionists have condemned as an attempt to push pensioner patients into private health care nursing homes.

Ms Eagle said: "Representations have been made to me that many of the older people in wards six and seven at VCH require quite high levels of both medical and nursing care when they first arrive and that this may not be possible to provide in anything other than a hospital setting.

"We also need to look carefully at the costs involved for older people. I want to ensure that poorer pensioners in particular do not lose out through these proposals."

Her worries were echoed by the Conservative Moreton West & Saughall Massie councillor Chris Blakely, who has already challenged the proposals at a public community forum.

He said: "Over the last few days many concerned people have contacted me over this issue.

"I asked Kathy Doran, chief executive of the Birkenhead and Wallasey trust, to give a commitment to keep these wards open, if that's what people wanted following the consultation process.

"She would not give that commitment."

Plans to build a 63-bed nursing care home in Oxton for people waiting permanent places in care homes were also highlighted in the joint report from the director of social services and chief executives of Birkenhead and Wallasey, and Bebington and West Wirral PCTs. The new facility would have just 17 free beds.

Angela Eagle said she welcomed hospital authority plans to identify and provide more focussed care for older people and provide more scope for those who were medically ready to go home but could not look after themselves immediately.

But she added: "I am concerned to ensure that the reality matches the aspirations. Moving from 56 free beds at VCH to only 17 free beds at the new facility is something that gives me grave concern."