The organisers of the biggest demonstration so far in defence of the NHS, a huge 30,000-strong march against NHS cuts in Cornwall, yesterday slammed as ‘arrogant’ the response of management of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.
People from all over Cornwall, including local residents and hospital staff, joined in last Sunday’s march organised by Hayle Council, near Penzance.
But the Trust said the march will not affect its decision to cut health services and jobs in Cornwall.
These include the possible closure of Hayle’s St Michael’s Hospital, the loss of the Accident & Emergency department at West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance, or cuts in wards and services at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske, near Truro.
Trust spokeswoman Sue Wolstenholme said the march was ‘a marvellous expression of how much people care about hospital services’ but that the protesters ‘need to understand the reality behind the situation much more clearly.’
March organiser, Hayle councillor John Bennett said angrily: ‘It’s very arrogant to tell us we don’t know the real issues.’
Referring to Sunday’s march, he added: ‘We wanted to send two messages; that we think that the hospital trust is badly managed and a lot more people should be accountable than just Brian Milstead (former trust chief executive who left with a ‘golden handshake’).
‘Secondly, we wanted to help the trust to go to central government to say we need to have a new approach towards Cornwall.’
The campaigners are calling for an independent review of hospital services in the county.
Penwith District Council had voted unanimously to give the march its full support.
‘The march on Sunday was excellent. You have to fight,’ Independent councillor Irene Bailey, chair of Penwith District Council, told News Line yesterday.
She added: ‘What we are demanding is an independent review of the financial situation and of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust management.
‘I heard Sue Wolstenholme this morning. She said that waiting lists are getting shorter.
‘But I’ve heard of a lot of people who’ve had appointments cancelled or postponed to a later date.
‘This is just one way to save money.
‘We are concerned that services at West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance, and St Michael’s Hospital, Hayle, are being slowly taken away.
‘Then of course they will have a reason to say “this hospital is not viable” and close it down.
‘It would have a terrible effect on the people in this area – not everyone has a car and the public transport is not so good.
‘We feel they are putting all their eggs in one basket at Treliske.
‘We only have one district hospital in Cornwall – the Royal cornwall at Treliske – we can’t afford to lose our community hospitals as well.
‘We’ve been promised by the government affordable, accessible treatment nearer to home.
‘In Cornwall, we have to travel miles, and we have 5.9 million visitors a year to cope with.
‘It’s disgraceful what’s happening. No one has listened to us.’
Sunday’s march was led off by local mayors and supported by Heyl Band, Camborne Band, the Golowan Band, Hayle Samba and the Hayle Male Voice Choir.
‘We are proud to be able to welcome so many people to Hayle’, said Mayor Paul Birch. ‘We will now follow through to ensure that our voices are heard.’