‘HANDS OFF OUR HOSPITALS!’ – demand campaigners marching on Downing Street

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Some of the large delegation fighting to stop the closure of the A&E at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary
Some of the large delegation fighting to stop the closure of the A&E at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary

‘JEREMY Hunt hear us say, NHS is here to stay!’ and ‘One fight – we are all united!’ chanted campaigners fighting to save A&Es from Banbury, Grantham, Huddersfield and Stafford on Monday.

Over 150 of them had descended on London to hand in petitions to Downing Street and demonstrate outside Department of Health head office, Richmond House. They were welcomed in Trafalgar Square by London campaign groups.|News Line spoke to a number of the participants.

Gloria Wildman said: ‘I’m from Fulham Save Our Hospitals. ‘We’re fighting to keep Charing Cross Hospital fully open. We’re campaigning for Charing Cross Hospital and Ealing as well because we need all our hospitals. We have to keep the NHS because if it goes all the hospitals in England would be in trouble, except the private ones.

‘It’s very unfair because the NHS belongs to the people, the taxpayers. We need our hospitals, our doctors, our nurses and all the people who care for us. The trade unions should take action. What happened to the junior doctors is wrong. Everybody needs to support them. They are looking after us we should be looking after them.’

Jim Twiss of Support Stafford Hospital, said: ‘We’ve lost the 24-hour A&E, the children’s A&E, the consultant-led maternity and paediatrics as well. It’s virtually just a field hospital now! We’re fighting to get them re-opened. We need the unions to come out and support us.

‘They need to take strike action to stop closures all round the country. Last year, we camped outside Stafford Hospital for six months. We need unions to support occupations. They should have take action with the junior doctors and must do when the doctors strike again.’

Janie Lee of Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital said: ‘We are fighting night-time cuts of our A&E. Grantham A&E is now shut from 6.30pm to 8.30 in the morning, seven days a week. It was a 24-hour A&E before and it needs to come back to that. United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust have taken our doctors to Lincoln and Boston.

‘This has left Grantham with no A&E at night for 120,000 and rising people who live in the Grantham and district area. They are putting patient safety at risk. We need to occupy. We don’t want to disrupt the services but we want Grantham back under our control. These trusts have no idea how to run a hospital. They want to run hospitals on corporate lines.’

Fellow Fighting 4 Grantham campaigner Elvis Stooke said: ‘We’re fighting to get our A&E back to 24 hours. They’ve only given us a limited service which is open in the daytime when most injuries happen in the night time. It’s put the lives of Grantham people at risk as we now have to travel over 40-odd miles to another A&E at night.

And it’s much quicker to go by car because you can’t get an ambulance for at least six hours. The Lincolnshire trust are living in la la land and they are telling us one thing while our research tells a totally different story.

‘The unions should take action. All the hospitals throughout the UK are suffering. We should get rid of this government – all they are thinking about are big banks. All the government want to do is privatise the NHS. The NHS is what makes this country unique. If we lose that we lose everything with it.’

Chair of Keep Horton General Hospital in Banbury, Keith Strangwood warned against the government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). He told News Line: ‘They are calling it transformation but it’s not, it’s destruction. It is an NHS the government wants to pay for rather than the NHS we pay for and need.

‘It’s a centralisation and closure programme. Key services are being moved further away. You could see the end of the District General Hospital. We’re going to have centres of excellence, day care centres and community hospitals. People are going to die if this plan goes ahead. It needs all the unions to take action. They should have come out with the junior doctors.’

Christine Bickley, wearing her Hands off Horton t-shirt, said: ‘The Horton is a massive part of my life. I was in and out of the children’s ward as a child. And when I had my daughter they were full – no beds, no cots. But I had my daughter 14 weeks premature at the Horton.

‘They were going to send me to Wolverhampton but while we were waiting for the ambulance, things deteriorated and I was rushed into theatre for a C-section at the Horton. My daughter was transferred to Reading when she was two hours old. I got left at the Horton.

‘After Reading she went to the John Radcliff (hospital in Oxford) and then back to the Horton. The Horton is a vital part of our community. The John Radcliff, where they want to send people to, can’t cope – they couldn’t seven years ago. We have to save the Horton. The unions should take action, everyone should because it it’s the whole hospital that’s under threat now. I would support an occupation.’

Jackie Grunsell of Hands of HRI (Huddersfield Royal Infirmary), said: ‘We’re campaigning to save our local hospital from a number of cuts. We’re trying to stop them closing the A&E department and a whole range of other services. Also we want to make links with other campaigners that have similar issues.

‘It’s an important national campaign to save the NHS. The trade unions should take national action. There needs to be a national demonstration and a day of industrial action as well. Eventually there’ll have to be occupations.’

Steve Mathan of Hands Off HRI added: ‘The CCG in Huddersfield are trying to shut down the A&E in our local hospital. They want to put an urgent care centre there instead which means everybody who needs to go to the A&E will have to go to Halifax. That’s about eight or nine miles but it can take one and a half hours in traffic to get there. Even ambulances have trouble getting through quickly.

‘We’re opposing the CCG plans. They are making a final decision on their plans on October 20th. That’s why we’re here today to tell Jeremy Hunt it’s not just a local issue, it’s a national issue as well. The unions should take action. There should be a Day of Action for the NHS. The junior doctors will have to strike again and other unions should come out with them, not leave doctors to fight alone.’